Young private detectives, Banyard and Mingle, are out of money and out of luck when a swindled widow presents a life-changing case. As clues reveal a treacherous shipwreck and a rotting corpse in a cage, they are confronted by brutal smugglers and ghoulish gawpers in a mystery that could cost them their lives!
However, in a dystopian world of slavery and greed, where silkers rule and threaders serve, it is not just the criminals they will have to fight… Can justice prevail when the law itself is corrupt? And how might a sock full of bones help bring it about? (Synopsis)
Following an earth-shattering cataclysmic event, civilisations resets minus a couple of hundred years of knowledge. Horses, steam, and clockwork drive a nineteenth-century society that has a brutal class divide between the upper-class Silkers and working-class Threaders. This is the backdrop for a superbly adventurous mystery novel featuring Michael Banyard and Josiah Mingle.
The story follows the exploits of the detective duo, and their helpers, as they seek to resolve a series of seemingly unrelated cases that gradually weave together to become one epic tangle. As well as ships, explosions, and sword-fights, there’s a supernatural element courtesy of the strange floating Gawpers that seem to ride the mist, striking fear into those who stare into their lamplight gaze.
A satisfying Famous Five itch is scratched, courtesy of a lighthouse, caves, and secret rooms; but there is no mistaking that this is a grown up novel from B. J. Mears. Amongst the action and escapades are some thought-provoking issues about class and justice. Banyard’s struggles with imposter syndrome and judges himself to fall short of his father’s standards, which helps the reader to empathise with his problematic position.
To contrast with the slick cobbles and bleak architecture, there are moments of satisfying lightness courtesy of Mingle’s strange questions and mother’s secret fish-stew recipe, all punctuated with the unhinged neighbour, Jinkers.
Unlike other detective fiction, Banyard and Mingle provide an almost non-stop action romp. The quasi-Victorian setting hits the spot for the future-past steampunk fans and the chemistry between the two main protagonists shows great promise for future books in the series.