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Book Notes 16: The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle, by Catherine Webb

Catherine Webb is only 19; she had her first novel published at 14. It makes you sick; though it shouldn’t.

Horatio Lyle is a scientist and investigator in Victorian times. He has a dog called Tate, but there’s a lot more to this book than bad sugar-manufacturer-related jokes. The blurb describes it as “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Thomas Edison as written by Terry Pratchett”, and that’s not a bad assessment; though it’s not as funny as Pratchett. I read it with my nine-year-old son, and he thoroughly enjoyed it: though not so much the descriptive passages, and he was disappointed by the ending.

I thought the descriptive passages were very well written and incredibly evocative, but there were rather too many of them; and while I enjoyed it at the time, actually the action was on the weak side, and she didn’t make as much of the plot as she could have.

And that ending: what a letdown. See, the story is that this ancient plate of great cultural significance has been stolen from the Bank of England, and various groups are trying to get it back.

It turns out that one of the groups consists of some sort of supernatural beings. They are a bit vampirish, but they have the traditional fear of, and vulnerability to, iron, of Faerie. They believe the plate has great power.

There are investigations and plots; but not really very many of them. It’s very well written, as I say, but kind of lightweight.

I see that there’s a sequel out already, so in time we might see whether her plotting skills have got any stronger.