Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Prisoner of Blackwood Castle by Ron Goulart

The Prisoner of Blackwood Castle
by Ron Goulart
1984 Avon Books
Reprinted Wildside 2015 in Harry Challenge: Victorian Supernatural Sleuth

Early steampunk which has Ron Goulart in his element.  Set in 1897 Europe, Harry Challenge is a Pinkerton style detective who is hired to rescue a man believed held prisoner in a foreign castle.  Along the way he faces lifelike automatons, a werewolf, and a vampire.  Well, I say face.

What works here is Goulart's trademark humor.  Very few books are laugh-out-loud funny, and he doesn't try for it here, but the humor works to give the book charm, which it has in spades.  There are good guys galore: Challenge, his estranged love Princess Alicia, stage magician and genuine psychic the Great Lorenzo, spunky reporter Jennie, her rival reporter the braggart McMillion, and his foul-mouthed valet Tubbs.

What it's short on are bad guys and action.  There are few quick sword fights that last a couple sentences each, but very little actually happens until the end of the book, and almost nothing even then.

Our heroes pretty much just waltz into the titular castle, dispatch a robot, and just let everyone out.  Even the main villain, vampire and maybe mad scientist who we never meet, Dr. Mayerling, gets killed off page.  There's a last minute introduction of a new conflict which gets resolved by walking up to the scoundrel and having half a sword fight until he gives up.

I was surprised this was published in novel form, as it barely breaks 36,000 words.  We had a good setting and good characters, but it could have used a couple thousand more words for them to actual do something.

Available for Kindle at Amazon with its sequel.

Click here to read a sample.

1 comment:

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