Automatic WomanIf you can imagine Sherlock Holmes written by Micky Spillane and set against a steampunk alternative Victorian London, you’d maybe begin to understand the fascinating universe in which Nathan L Yocum’s book, Automatic Woman, takes place.

Jolly, a rotund detective from the Bow Street Firm, finds himself drawn into a very strange case when an automaton, Swan Lake’s Swan Princess, kills her creator and Jolly is suspected of the crime. What follows is a race through London and beyond while Jolly tries to find the real culprit, clear his name and get to the bottom of the ‘science’ behind this unique automaton.

Peopled by characters purely from his own imagination, as well as reimagined historical figures – Charles Darwin as a megalomaniacal rich man in the vein of James Bond’s Blofeld – Yocum creates a cast of noire characters who are more than just the usual ciphers. I was a little disappointed by the ‘tart with a heart’ love interest for Jolly. There is a paucity of rounded female characters in the book, but if I’m honest, the story doesn’t really suffer for all that.

Jolly is likable. He has a strong voice and confident manner, a very believable character. The plot moves along at a good pace and I liked the open ending – surely a sequel is in the works?

If you have enjoyed The Court of the Air (Stephen Hunt) I am sure you will love this too.

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