No one will deny that it takes a criminal mastermind to break into the Bank of England — special indeed must be the person who can break into the supposedly impenetrable vaults, where the wealthiest and most powerful English families (including Queen Victoria) keep their valuables. So when someone accomplishes the impossible, it’s cause for concern among England’s police inspectors.
As if this were not an incredible enough feat, the police are flummoxed when they discover that the criminal has stolen a plain plate, valued at a mere 200 pounds, when the wealth of England had been in his grasp.
It is thus that Special Constable Horatio Lyle, inventor of machines and other things that explode, finds himself assigned to this mysterious case. And he has no idea what’s in store for him.
For the plate in question is not ordinary. Some would call its power, its very existence, a myth. Some would seek to destroy it…and others will stop at nothing to recover it.
Love the characters
This is one of those times where I was hooked into a story at first sight. The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle just screams excitement and narrow escapes, doesn’t it? The back cover reads like an 18th century newspaper headline:
The Bank of England robbed! Murder on the Streets of London! Hypnotism! Mystery! Pursuit! Saint Paul’s Cathedral ablaze!
Special Constable Horatio Lyle is an interesting mix between Sherlock Holmes and Maurice, the kooky inventor father in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” What he lacks in finesse, he makes up for in his intelligence and ability to create things that explode and cause lots of smoke and damage.
He’s assisted by Tess (a recovering pickpocket) and Thomas (a rebellious young lord), and it’s entertaining to see the interactions between the three. Tess hasn’t quite taken her reformation to heart, and she and Horatio have humorous tiffs over the morality of certain actions she takes; meanwhile, Thomas is eager to prove himself to be more than just a lazy “bigwig,” but his posh upbringing has not prepared him for the situation into which the three are thrust.
For science fans
And the intrepid trio certainly faces some frightening situations. It’s bad enough when bodies show up, but as stranger and stranger things begin to happen, it becomes clear that they aren’t dealing with mere mortals.
Horatio’s penchant for mixing chemicals and building machinery gets him through many a dangerous situation, but also makes him a target for his foes. The reader is treated to many descriptions of electricity and magnetism, chemical cocktails and mysterious devices. My only complaint about the book is that at times it felt like way too much of this, and too little plot. But it doesn’t hurt the book — it’s just not my forte.
A mix of great characters, evil (and perhaps otherworldly) bad guys, and more 18th century crazy inventions than you can shake a stick at, The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle is definitely worth a read.