Blurb: “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 brutal hanging of someone very close to her, 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 or a woman in a man’s world.”
This is the second book in the “Fall of The Gas-Lit Empire” series and a hanging is taking place in the Kingdom. It is hugely anticipated due to newspaper coverage and speculation. Elizabeth plans to sneak in to watch. However, she is wanted by the law. So a disguise is required. Placing herself among the crowd she watches as the woman who gave her the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook is hanged. Elizabeth returns home and goes to burn the wretched book only to save it from the fire moments later as it is her last connection to the deceased woman.
The reader sees the return of Julia – personally my favourite character – who is caught up in a fight with her mother as usual. Julia wants to move to the Kingdom and study law, her mother wants Julia to get a husband.
A stranger – a royalist called Yan Romero – offers Elizabeth legal advice for a price. This immediately appears sketchy to Elizabeth who knows that passage in and out of the kingdom boarder is pricey. When he leaves, she follows and watches him enter the home of a farm labourer who is not the kind of person a royalist would hang out with. Elizabeth speaks to the farmer a few days later and quickly assesses that he once lived in the kingdom like she did, but fled too. She gets information from him, learning that an extradition treaty is to be made and if it goes ahead “they’ll get us all. Drag us home in chains.”
Julia becomes increasingly interested by a woman called Mrs Raike who runs a charitable organisation which runs soup kitchens, Sunday schools and other works that benefit the poor and needy. As per usual, Elizabeth doesn’t trust this mysterious Mrs Raike and begins investigating.
A register is brought in and both Elizabeth and her brother had to return every two weeks to re-sign the register. A feat which will quickly prove difficult as Elizabeth is both herself and her brother so the two cannot appear and sign the register together.
In my years of reading, I often find that sequels are sub-par compared to their debut counterparts. Unseemly Science is an exception to that idea. This book is fantastically written to the point where it sucks you in and you forget that you are in fact, not a part of the world but actually reading a book. Julia proves yet again to be a strong side character and some form of support for Elizabeth. And of course, Elizabeth’s adventures only leave you hungry for more.
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