Dena Landon's Reviews > New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
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's review
Jul 23, 2011

really liked it
Read in July, 2011

New Amsterdam is a collection of short stories about Detective Crown Inspector Abigail Irene Garrett, a forensic sorceress, and Sebastien de Ulloa, a renowned amateur sleuth who also happens to be a vampire. The stories take place in an alternate history colonies, where tensions exist between the Empire, the French, and the Iroquois

The first story in the collection owes much to the tradition of English country house mysteries, only the suspects are all trapped in a dirigble instead. The writing style felt a bit like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, only sexier, and I enjoyed Bear's homage. In the second story Sebastien meets Abby Irene, and most of the stories are told from her point of view. The stories shine when they focus on murders and intrigue, and the sorcerous and mundane ways in which Abby Irene and Sebastien solve their cases. A common thread running through the collection is whether or not New Amsterdam will side with the French or the British, and I found the last two stories - which dealt almost entirely with this choice - to be the weakest in the book. This is largely a personal bias, however, as I love murder mysteries and prefer them to political intrigue.

Abigail Irene is a fun and interesting main character, a woman with a weakness for drink and men she shouldn't love. The developing relationship between her and Sebastien, and the insights they gain into each others' psyche as the stories unfold, was masterfully handled. Bear's sparse prose contained some real gems of description and dialogue, and fans of the Steampunk genre and murder mysteries would be well served to pick up this book.
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