Legacy of the Nautilus
A Steampunk Holmes Adventure by P. C. Martin
Review: Sherlock Holmes is called upon by his sister Mycroft to determine the circumstances surrounding the murder of a junior clerk, on whose body was found an incomplete set of submarine plans, in Legacy of the Nautilus, the first mystery in a series of "Steampunk Holmes" stories by P. C. Martin.
The submarine plans were for the Nautilus, a mysterious submarine built by Prince Dakkar of Northern India, who is also known as Captain Nemo. The submarine had sunk, but before the British Navy destroyed it, they carefully documented every piece of machinery on board, storing the plans on a set of ten Engine Cards, which were stored in a safe of a government arsenal office. And yet seven of these cards are found in the pocket of young design engineer named Cadbury, who has been found with his head bashed in. Mycroft Holmes enlists her brother Sherlock to not only determine who killed Cadbury, but to retrieve the missing cards as well.
Legacy of the Nautilus is based on the short story "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", written by Arthur Conan Doyle and first published in 1912. The time frame of both stories is similar — the late nineteenth century — and both are narrated by Dr. John Watson, but, as suggested by the term "steampunk" in the present narrative, there are some differences. First and probably foremost, this is a generally faithful recreation of the story and written in a remarkably similar style to the source material. The steampunk references — mostly steam powered engines and devices but also the Victorian equivalent of modern electronics — are organically integrated into the story, so much so that they don't seem out of place. Watson has lost an arm in Afghanistan and it has been replaced with a mechanical one. He makes passing reference to it early in the story: "This morning my mechanical arm felt clumsier than usual as I shaved and dressed, and gulped down my coffee and a scone." An everyday scene for an everyday kind of guy. He later uses some of its built-in technology for defense, but it doesn't seem extraordinary in the least. Holmes has a tricked-out motorcycle, but it, too, doesn't seem out of place in the streets of 1890s London. The author deserves a lot of credit for seamlessly incorporating steampunk-inspired equipment and technology, and even modern forensics, into the story, while keeping true to its time and setting … as much as that is possible. About the only element that seems slightly out of place is casting Mycroft as a woman in what is otherwise a completely male-dominated society. But, if a woman (Queen Victoria) can rule Britain, it's not too far a stretch to assume a woman, in Holmes's description of Mycroft to Watson, "occasionally is the British government."
Readers familiar with the canon will recognize the plot similarities between Legacy of the Nautilus and "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", but the resolution to the present tale has been altered, and some might think in a stronger manner.
Legacy of the Nautilus is the first in a planned series of stories to be published in both standard print books and ebooks and interactive ebooks. (This review is from a standard ebook.) If this first entry — which is more novella length at about 150 pages than story length — is indicative of the quality of the series as a whole, it promises to be a most entertaining extension to the Sherlock Holmes universe.
Acknowledgment: MX Publishing provided an eARC of Legacy of the Nautilus for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Legacy of the Nautilus: London, England
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Legacy of the Nautilus by P. C. Martin — A Steampunk Holmes Adventure
Publisher: MX Publishing
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: June 2012
List Price: $14.95