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Review: OverLondon – George Penney & Tony Johnson

OverLondon - George Penney & Tony Johnson

Genre: Comic Fantasy, Crime, Mystery, Satire, Steampunk

Reviewer: Maryann

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About The Book

A Rollicking Comic-Fantasy Whodunnit with a Tudor Twist!

Priests from OverLondon’s Church of Vengeful Acquisition are exploding. Is the cause divine retribution, ballistic undergarments or something more sinister? If only the city had a professional private investigator…

Luckily, notorious pirate—turned privateer—Captain Alex Reign, has just narrowly escaped the hang man’s noose to establish the Reign Agency in Drury Lane. She needs cash fast and will take any job, even if failure means facing an inconveniently messy end. But what’s a little danger to a professional swashbuckler?

Armed with nothing but her roguish wit, her reliably unreliable crew and a rogue artificer experiencing a mortal crisis, Alex is convinced they’ll have this crime solved and the reward pocketed by teatime.

To solve their first case, all they must do is survive while navigating rampaging nuns, clockwork horrors, confectionary gangsters, piratical florists, malevolent urchins, military-grade statuary, weaponized blasphemy and sexual whales.

How hard can it possibly be?

The Review

Queen Anne is quite psychotic. She has declared herself a deity, and has founded the Church of Vengeful Acquisition and diverted money from the OverVatican City to herself.  Her actions caused OverLondon and OverVatican City to go head to head, starting the Three Hundred Year War. With the peace offering of the last printing press, two million “Books of Vengeance” were printed.

Captain Alex Reign, the Dread Pirate of Purple Reign, was wanted in OverLondon. Because of her actions saving the city from the OverParisian, she’s been pardoned. She receives a letter, signed by the OverLondon Academic Council, and goes from pirate to privateer. Becoming a privateer is still a problem, because now she owes taxes.

Along with her two crew members – Flora, who loves shiny things, and bo’sun Sid Potts – she comes up with a plan. Alex needs to get her ship – Purple Reign – back, but has to find a way to make enough money to pay the taxes. With the amount of wanted posters in the city, she figures she can earn her keep being a private eye. So she has Sid put up a new sign for the business at The Armoury:

The Reign Agency:  Home of the Dreade Pirate Purple Reign, and OverLondon Privat Ear! 

It’s not perfect, but she really can’t argue with the sign, as it suits the reading ability of the typical OverLondoner.

Elias Adaze Dooley has lived at the Boarding House for Respectable Young Gentlemen for four years. His landlady, Mrs. Nevins, is always trying to get him to eat her porridge. He considers himself an Artificer skilled in the scientific method. He created a clockwork toy soldier’s arm, and his prize creation is the most eccentric trinket, Phillip. It cost him the Guild of Artificer Apprenticeship, but he hopes for something bigger and better with his new business, making automatons.

He leases space in Whitechapel for his new business – the “Ingenious Mechanisms” – from Vikram Bevoir, whom he’s known for four years. Vikram owns the “not-so respectable” book shop, which works for Elias because no-one from the Artificer Guild would come there.

On occasion, Elias spends time with his mother at St. George’s Cathedral. It gives him time to think about his experiments. On one particular day at St. Georges, he witnesses the literal explosion of Father Bartholomew. When he tends to the parts of Father Bartholomew, he finds a trinket, a scrap of paper and red satin.

For her part, Alex gets her first case. Miss Sadie Simms offers her a good amount of money to recover a pair of red satin knickers from the now-deceased Father Bartholomew. Sadie made them for him, and apparently he’s not the only priest that are her clientele.

In the meantime, Elias has discovered something interesting on the deceased priest’s belongings. When he sees another exploding priest, he fears he will soon be visited by the Bad Habits Special Branch. There’s only one thing left to do – find Alex Reign, Private Eye!

OverLondon is one of the most hilarious novels I have ever read. I love the quirky British humor, and the mix of politics, religion, crimes, science, pirates with steampunk, adventure and a suspenseful mystery. There’s Priests running a printing press, aristocrats getting prosthetics and a variety of trinkets. There’s also snarky banter throughout the story.

I especially liked the back-and-forth between Elias and Vikram, just to decide whose turn it is to answer the door. Elias is brilliant – the way he organizes and connects the crimes is fantastic, and Alex can do nothing but agree with him. I also liked Roddy, Keef and Grub.

The tale includes some very weird and diverse characters: Flora, homo furo, loves shinny things; Gregor, homo meles, Armoury’s Proprietor; Clockmaker; Lepers; Slasher Harry and Daphne; Big Ivan; Sugar Gang and Sweet Pete and his ice cream scoop. Also the Priests of The Blessed Press: Worrier, Cheerful, Pious, Confident, and Novice Smug.

Even the “Acknowledgments” and “About The Authors” sections are a must read.

OverLondon is a page-turner with a little drama, danger and a great central mystery. I love Penney and Johnson’s sense of British humor and how they took a chance with this fractured history. I’m hoping they have plans for a sequel. I would definitely read this one again (and again).

The Reviewer

Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California. Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018. My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen. New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.

I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.

My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012. She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series. Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book!

As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.

My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing. I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.

I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews. One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group. Joining her site was such an eye opener. I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.

But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams.