When I mentioned the Bard of Brentford’s last book, The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age
, I wondered if he’d carry on in the same kind of bonkers steampunk mode or wander off in another bizarre direction. Well, as it happens, he’s stayed in the same milieu, if you’ll excuse the word. Well, he’s done it whether you’ll excuse the word or not, so I’m not quite sure why I gave you the opportunity to object. He’s also stuck with the pattern of nicely silly long titles, as you can see. I’ve seen some references to this being the third volume of a trilogy, but you do need to understand that some Rankin trilogies have rather more than three parts, so there could well be more of this kind of thing to follow, which would make me quite happy.
I think I’ve digressed enough for the moment, so lets go back to the book. The fun starts with what appears to be a spaceship crashing on Syon House, which in Rankin’s late nineteenth century is the home of Lord Brentford, recently returned from an unfortunate episode of being presumed dead, and not the Duke of Northumberland at all. The spaceship turns out to be more of a time machine than a space machine, and you know how much trouble time travel tends to cause…
The story involves The Greatest Detective in the World, Cameron Bell, who you might recall was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes (in his actions) and Mr Pickwick (in his appearance), who along with his assistant Darwin, the only monkey known to have the gift of speech, manages to get into some more advanced difficulties than usual.
There’s an Evil Plot, millennial nonsense happening a century early, an Evil Twin or two and plenty of the usually unusual lunacy, including some quite nice endnotes. It’s even got a moderately coherent plot which is only mildly confusing.
Like every other Robert Rankin book, it’s utterly Dagenham, if not Brentford. Great fun and well worth reading.
 Several stops past Barking
 On a different line altogether