by T. Aaron Payton
However, someone is killing human prostitutes and leaving them in front of these brothels. Abel Value, both pimp for the murdered women and owner of the brothels thus targeted, blackmails Lord Pembroke ‘Pimm’ Halliday, younger son of a Marquess, functioning alcoholic, and brilliant detective, into investigating. Although Pimm finds the idea of working for a notorious criminal somewhat distasteful, he soon takes the case with the aid of his wife, Winnifred, who was his best friend, Freddy, before falling victim to the affliction; Adam, a brilliant scientist, hopeless romantic, and Frankenstein monster; and Eleanor Skyler, a journalist who hides her gender under the nom de plume E. Skye so that readers will take her seriously. What they discover is a conspiracy so deep and so far-reaching that all of England is in danger.
The Constantine Affliction is steam punk at its finest. Sure, the plot is improbable and occasionally, the story gets mired in long monologues which are meant to explain what’s been happening but, hey, its fantasy. The characters are well-drawn, even secondary ones; there’s plenty of twists and turns within the story to keep the reader involved; and the story is intelligent, dealing with issues of gender roles, class, science and ethics without sidetracking the plot or browbeating the reader. Surprisingly, under all the alchemy and adventure is the real Victorian England, the poverty, the dirt, and the overarching class system – author Payton clearly took the time to research the era, a rarity in historical fantasy. But most of all, The Constantine Affliction takes the reader on a fun ride, never forgetting for a moment that the purpose of the story is to entertain and that it does in spades.