The Affinity Bridge by George Mann is one of those books which by being brilliant in parts makes me pickier about its faults.
Its setting, an alternative Victorian universe and primarily London, is richly imagined and determinedly steampunk. Nor does Mann rely on one mystery to carry the book. He has subplots and hints at character revelations.
But that brings us to the characters, and my big disappointment. The protagonist, Sir Maurice, simply stayed flat (and therefore irritating) and his motivations unclear. He's an agent for the Queen, but surely that's not reason enough to run around London waving his papers and rightly being attacked for his trouble.
The thing is, characters are like real life people--there's no accounting for taste. Some people undoubtedly found Sir Maurice a charming, intriguing hero. Me, I'd tip his opiate down the drain and warn his superiors that addiction makes for unreliability. Perhaps that's the explanation for his scattergun, chatterfest approach to investigation?
And for all my complaints about poor Sir Maurice, I'd recommend "The Affinity Bridge" as a steampunk novel. His female partner, Veronica, shows Mann can develop a three dimensional character.