Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, by Juliana Gray

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780425277072, October 2016

Emmeline Truelove is in the unusual position, for an Edwardian woman, of being the Duke of Olympia's personal secretary. She's held the post for six years, since the death of her father, who previously held it. The Duke of Olympia is newly dead, his heir is somewhere in the Mediterranean, and the alternative to great-nephew Maximilian Haywood is his younger brother, a dissolute spendthrift.

Haywood has to be found.

The Dowager Duchess asks Miss Truelove to make a trip to Greece to find the heir. She's sending the Marquess of Silverton with her, on the grounds that this seemingly frivolous young man has skills she'll need.

Reluctantly, and over the objections of what seems to be Queen Victoria's ghost, she agrees.

Despite the sometimes steampunk feel of the story, they travel in the Duke's steamship, Isolde, not an airship. Airships are blessedly absent in this story. Over the course of the trip we learn that Truelove thinks of herself as a very conventional, respectable young woman, and also that Silverton is perhaps not wrong in suspecting that there's something more to her than that. We also learn that her own family history has some oddness about it. But that's nothing compared to what she and Silverton find when they start digging into the apparent disappearance of Mr. Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia. The packet the duchess gave her includes pictures of a fresco in which one of the figures appears to be hold a Brownie camera--completely impossible, of course, in a fresco three thousand years old.

Things get stranger and stranger as they arrive at the last site that Haywood worked, meet some of the people that had been around him, and start to follow in his tracks.

And who the heck is Desma, and why does she speak such an odd, unfamiliar Greek dialect?

What the heck is going on here?

After a brief bump at the beginning, which nevertheless proved to be relevant later, I just couldn't stop reading this. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.