So this book Red Hot Steele by Alex Berg came up when I looked for a new steampunk novel in Amazon. Only thing is…it isn’t really steampunk. Its more like…an Edwardian pulp mystery. Its a bit more Dashiell Hammet than Gail Carriger. This is a first person novel told from the perspective of Detective Jake Daggers. Really. That’s his name. And he seems to be every stereotypical gumshoe rolled into one. He’s a large, misogynistic detective in New York that eats poorly, is divorced and not a good dad.
At least I think its New York. The world building in this book is almost non-existent. Magic/the supernatural seems to be known and somewhat accepted in this world, as evidenced by the fact that Detective Daggers’ new partner is a young female half-elf by the name of Shay Steele. Yes, really. Despite her name, she’s actually the most interesting character in the book. She supposedly has some supernatural talent for visions which lands her on the police force. As women are not police in this time/world, her visions are the only way she can gain detective status.
The story itself is a regular old murder/con double-header with a sprinkling of magic. It wasn’t really all that spectacular a story and I figured out the whodunit pretty quickly. It could have been an acceptable book if there were more world building but seriously, the most thought I felt was put into it was the fact that horses weren’t used in the city anymore because of all the droppings so therefore rickshaws were the mode of transportation for those who could afford such things. I thought that was an interesting concept but it was the only thing that put any sort of time-frame on this story.
There was none of the usual steampunk trappings of steam powered everything, gadgets, brass, and general sense of elegance. I was overall disappointed with this book and grateful I got it on sale for about 4 bucks. I don’t see myself getting the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of the old Sam Spade/Big Sleep style mysteries, this might be a good book for you. If you are more a steampunk person or an urban fantasy person, I’d stay away. There just isn’t enough of either genre in this to satisfy. Rating: C-