Review: Unseemly Science by Rod Duncan || Slow start, but that ending is… something

Unseemly Science

Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #2

Kristin Rod Duncan

book review 58.3

In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life – as both herself and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the hanging of Alice Carter, the false duchess, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy!

There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case…? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder for a woman in a man’s world…

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: May 5th 2015

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Possible Spoilers For: The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter

“For good or ill, knowledge has ever threatened the settled order. A keg of gunpowder may make matchwood of a sturdy house. But a book can set the world on fire.” 

This was really good. It is lacking in what book one had, but it makes up for it with so much more.

Elizabeth becomes a fugitive when the Republic signs a treaty with the Royalists to send people like her back to the kingdom, nonetheless she decided to pursue a case for her friend that initially more sinister than she imagined.

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“It was to dispel the smog of superstition and prejudice that we pulled the churches down. Now that work is done, let us build libraries in their stead.” 

For about eleven chapters, I just knew this one was going to suffer the irredeemable second book syndrome. However, I pushed past that and became incessantly focused on the plot. Action began to rise and the beloved Elizabeth Barnabus finally made her appearance. Not to say she wasn’t present before this moment— she is the main character after all. It her calculating, smart deductible side that came to the spotlight. Escaping capture, figuring out clues, I missed this side of herit was as if all of this was muted until then

I was pleasantly surprised by how much the plot twist and the reveal of important information was given. We learn with our main character, so I was always surprised. John Farthing made a few tiny appearances, once in the beginning and sparingly  towards the end seems like a trend and though I still wouldn’t call this a romancethere are more important things each have to focus on, I can still say it could go in that direction.

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“We use our eyes to see the world. But, as every conjurer knows, it is the mind that makes meaning.” 

He isn’t the only one who makes a small appearance; we meet up with Tink, who I didn’t realize would make a good foil for Elizabeth. Julia has a bigger role in this book, though in the beginning she was not on my good side.

It took a while for me to warm up to her if I’m honest and she left towards the end, but I’ll admit she is also a good foil for Elizabeth. It’s mentioned multiple times throughout the story. 

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A thing that really stood out to me and not in a good way is the time period we’re in. In one scene, Elizabeth asks for some records from 1996-2001. Yet I got a Victorian vibe… did the world revert back to those mentalities? How did we get to that point? Many questions need answers.

But, on a good note, the ending was an experienceI didn’t know who was going to die, how certain characters were going to make it out alive, it was a lot. And it does end on a cliff hanger in a way, so now I’m excited to get to the next onemore so than I probably so. 

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