The Kaiser Affair ~ Joseph Robert Lewis

  • Title: The Kaiser Affair
  • Author: Joseph Robert Lewis
  • Series: Drifting Isle Chronicles #1
  • Genre: Steampunk
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest reviewer
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  When a master thief escapes from prison, detective Bettina Rothschild must put him back behind bars before the scandalous fiasco destroys the Ministry of Justice. Her investigation leads from decaying cemeteries where ravens conspire to warehouses where wondrous machines are built in secret, and even to the fabled Drifting Isle above the city of Eisenstadt where an ancient tomb hides a deadly secret.

The relentless chase proves taxing for a young woman who relies on her cane and her steamcarriage to get about, but that’s where a good husband steps in. While Bettina picks locks and interrogates suspects, her beloved Arjuna defends her from the most brutal and bizarre assassins in Eisenstadt.

But as the clock ticks down, Bettina finds too many questions still remain. How did the thief escape from prison? How can he afford to hire so many killers? And why would he go to the Drifting Isle only to steal a giant beetle?

Review: I absolutely loved the start of this book, and I was completely sold on it when I was 3% in and encountered this sentence, uttered by our heroine, Bettina Rothschild, about her husband Arjuna Rana:

“He’s also a talented artist, speaks four languages fluently, has a photographic memory, and performs like a raging stallion in the bedroom. I can’t imagine that a snide cretin in a cheap blue suit with the body of a prepubescent orang-utan could really entice me to leave him.”

The start of the book is all about introducing this unlikely couple. Bettina is the brains of the outfit: prim and proper in her immaculate attire and with her cat-head cane to aid her walking, since she has one injured foot on which she cannot walk very long, or at least not without pain. Arjuna is the muscle, young and handsome, though by no means stupid. Together they work for the Ministry of Justice, and they are called on to apprehend one Ranulf Kaiser, a fraudster who has escaped prison by means and on motives unknown.

The book is essentially that: one long chase to catch Kaiser, but it is a highly entertaining ride against the steampunk backdrop of an industrialised city, Eisenstadt, on the shores of a lake and in the shadow of the mysterious drifting isle Inselmond, a great island which floats in the sky a mile above Eisenstadt and circles it once a year.

The prose is laced through with humour, and the relationship between Bettina and Arjuna is wonderful and endearing. The story unfolds at the right pace, and none of the revelations feel contrived or untimely. The ending was unexpected, yet appropriate to the story and the characters, and whilst there wasn’t a huge amount of depth to it, I enjoyed the book from start to finish.

Light and entertaining, I heartily recommend it.