Captain Marta Ramos, the most notorious pirate in the Duchy of Denver, has her hands full between fascinating murder mysteries, the delectable and devious Deliah Nimowitz, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas (the Duke of Denver’s new head of security), a spot of airship engineering and her usual activities: piracy, banditry and burglary. Not to mention the horror of high society tea parties. In contrast, Simms, her second in command, longs only for a quiet life, filled with tasty sausages and fewer explosions. Or does he? Join Captain Ramos, Simms and their crew as they negotiate the perils of air, land and drawing room in a series of fast-paced adventures in a North America that never was.
Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures includes 4 novellas and a short story about piracy, banditry, burglary, jail-breaking, several brilliant bits of detective work and all manner of otherwise lawless hijinks performed by the valiant Captain Ramos and her crew.
Murder on the Titania: Colonel Geoffrey Douglas, the Duke of Denver’s new head of security, is drawn into a high society murder mystery on the Airship Titania. None of the passengers are quite what they seem, including the mysterious young woman who always turns up where she is least expected.
The Curious Case of Clementine Nimowitz (and Her Exceedingly Tiny Dog):
A simple burglary goes horribly awry when Captain Ramos and Simms stumble across a dead body, a small dog and the deceased’s heirs, the noisome Morris and the rather too interesting Deliah.
The Jade Tiger: a mysterious woman enlists Captain Ramos’s aid in getting her revenge on her former employer and Captain Ramos finds herself doing an unintentional good deed.
The Ugly Tin Orrery: Captain Ramos and her crew embark on what appears to be a perfectly ordinary train robbery, only to be drawn into the Duke of Denver’s political machinations via a strange metal artifact. Throw in a spot of jail breaking and an encounter with the lovely Deliah, and it’s all in a day’s work for Captain Ramos and Simms.
The Flying Turk: The Airship Titania is entering a new era and welcoming its first automaton pilot. Or, perhaps not. Captain Ramos and Simms are back aboard the Titania for a heady mix of murder, robbery, peeved scientists and oblivious peers, with a spot of engineering thrown in.
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A woman-led mash-up of Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey, with an overlay of Jules Verne
his is a delightfully clever series of steampunk adventure/mystery stories featuring Captain Marta Ramos, a somewhat gender-queer bisexual tinkerer, swashbuckler, and outlaw leader. The flavor of the stories made me think oddly of a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, with an overlay of Jules Verne, mostly in the sense of having a central solidly-anchored buddy relationship between the mercurial and brilliant Ramos and her stolid and long-suffering righthand man, Simms. Together they work their way through locked rooms, red herrings, and mysterious objects. The “delectable and devious Delilah Nimowitz” provides a romantic interest for Ramos in several of the stories in an enemies-to-flirtatious-rivals fashion. There isn’t anything resembling a romance arc, but there’s more than sufficient in-story evidence to make queer readers feel represented.
One of the things I loved about this series is how it played with genre tropes and rooted the steampunk elements solidly in an American setting--though one with unexpected twists. For example: you immediately see a reference to the Duke of Denver, that staple title of Regencies, and then are knocked off balance by realizing he’s the Duke of Denver, Colorado and suddenly all your expectations of the implied world-building shift sideways. The stories don’t waste time explaining these shifts but any reader familiar with genre fiction should be charmed by working out the setting on the fly. Another amusing feature (though one that required me to chuck my sense of disbelief off a cliff) was the use of railroads and trains in ways that felt more reminiscent of seagoing adventures than transport constrained by terrestrial linearity.
A great collection; highly recommended.