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Mask of The Ripper

Posted by Lee A. Farruga on December 1, 2015 at 10:05 AM

A year ago I introduced you to the alternate Victorian era created by author David Barnett, and the adventures of Gideon Smith.

Gideon's latest adventure is here and it's just as brilliant as Barnett's first two novels.

Back in London, Gideon and his colleagues: journalist Aloysius Bent, airship pilot Rowena Fanshawe, and Maria, the mechanical girl are dragged into a case that is confounding the police and Inspector Lestrade. The city is on the edge of mass rioting due to the continuing reign of terror by the serial killer known only as Jack the Ripper.


While chasing the madman, a villain from their past strips Gideon Smith of his memory and he is cast adrift in the dank underbelly of London, where life is tough and death lurks in every shadowy alley.


With mob rule threatening to engulf London, and one of their own in grave danger, the Empire has never needed its hero more.

This third book in the series starts very soon after the last one. The reader will find that while the story is brand new, it also smoothly incoporates many parts and characters from the heroes' adventure in Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper has a number of new mysteries to be solved. There are also a number of new fictional and historical figures that Barnett has a great time with. For example, John Watson is indeed a doctor, but Sherlock is his patient. Watson encourages his delusion of being "the great detective" as a means of treatment. And yet he does have a knack for solving mysteries. Nice twist.

Another great addition to Barnett's alternative Victorian London is Madame Lizzie Strutter who forces all the Whitechapel prostitutes to go on strike until Jack the Ripper is caught. Again, a nice twist that lends a lot of interesting elements to the story.

This story has less of Gideon Smith as the main character and hero, and more of the ladies of his crew: Rowena and Maria. It gives the reader a great opportunity to learn a lot more about them, and to see them in a very different light than in the previous books. This goes for their housekeeper as well. Sally Cadwallader has had quite an interesting past.

One of my favourite parts of this story has Maria learning a lot more about herself as a "person" and not a machine. She meets and becomes friends with Gloria Monday, a transgender woman who teaches her a lot about being your true self. Barnett has done an incredible job with this character and I applaud him. He gets it. She is so wonderful, and her relationship, that the reader learns of later in the book, is very touching. I greatly recommend this book purely for this aspect of the story.

But I also recommend this book because, even though it's based strictly in London, it is still a great adventure. Victorian London has many layers and different worlds within it, and the author does a wonderful job of taking the reader into every nook and cranny.

Lastly, I have a small warning for readers. There are some very dark scenes, and one in particular made me cringe. It's an appropriate scene, but ewww... that's the only way I can describe it without giving anything away. Forewarned is forearmed.

Thanks to Tor for sending this my way. It's simply a brilliant continuation of this Hero of the Empire series.

You can get your own copy from your local bookstore or

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