After a series of natural and manmade disasters, the steam-punk city of New Pittsburgh is under the control of a shadow government, and supernatural beings inhabit the darkness. This setting provides the backdrop for most of the story, although the action starts in London. Jake Desmet, his cousin Veronique (Nicki) LeClerque, and his best pal Rick Brand are completing a retrieval mission that does not go as smoothly as they would have liked. Jake and Rick’s fathers run an import business that extends to helping the rich and powerful acquire difficult-to-obtain things, and Jake and Rick are following in their fathers’ footsteps. There is a carriage chase and lots of shooting, which sets the tone for most of the story. The opening sequence ends with Jake receiving the news of his father’s death under mysterious circumstances.
While investigating the murder of Jake’s father, the trio uncovers a series of unexplained, possibly supernatural deaths linked to a local mining operation. Along with the vampire Andreas, the witch Renate, and the not-totally-mad scientist Adam (who works for Nikola Tesla), our heroes get tangled up in a mystery that involves zombies that are half mechanical, evil witches, ghosts, exorcists, and even a kobold. There’s a lot of Eastern European mythology invoked, but not in way that someone thoroughly unfamiliar (me) can’t follow.
The action is pretty much non-stop which works well, since the point of view rotates between the good guys (Jake and co) and the villain, Drogo Veles, which helps keep up the suspense. A third perspective follows the private detective Drostan Fletcher who has been hired by Rick’s father. A final set of characters includes two slightly rogue agents of the Department of Supernatural Investigations and a union organizer. In the climax, when everyone comes together for the final good vs evil confrontation things get a little confusing to follow with so many characters.
The ending leaves room for future adventures which I would definitely look for, although I really hope that Drogo Veles doesn’t become the big bad evil that always lurks in the background while the heroes have to solve lots of problems over a series of books to finally get to him. The other thing I’d love to see is Tesla himself making an appearance.