I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi by Mark Hodder
Series: Burton & Swinburne #4
Published by Ebury Publishing on 8 August 2013
I was at a bit of a disadvantage with this book because I hadn’t read any of Hodder’s earlier works. The world he has created is rich but complex and it took a while to get familiar with the main players. Since Queen Victoria’s assassination in 1840, the government has relying on a spirit, Abdu El Yezdi, for political advice. El Yezdi has gone silent however and Sir Richard Francis Burton is charged with finding out what has happened him.
When we begin our tale, Richard Burton has not long discovered the source of the Nile along with Speke (who died) and was heading home to Britain. People kept confusing him for Livingstone which was a nice touch. Burton was knighted for his services to the realm and was hoping for an appointment in Damascus when Britain’s premier spirit disappears. Burton’s not sure how he is supposed to find a spectre but if he can’t, there’s no way the government will give him the plum assignment he wants. Burton may have been unwilling at the start but as the strange incidents begin to multiply, he attacks the problem with renewed vigour.
The poet Algernon Swinburne doesn’t pop up until later in the novel and in between drinking and sprouting poetry, provides a bit of muscle. He contrasts with Burton’s darker tone and proved a loyal companion to Burton. He is one of the few people who has met Abdu El Yezdi in person and his poetry even helps solve the puzzle. I would have liked him and Burton to meet up earlier as I enjoyed their interactions.
Killing off one of the longest rulers in British history is a bit cheeky but I was fascinated by how Hodder imagined the nineteenth century would have turned out. Ernest Augustus 1 of Hanover inherited the throne from Victoria and George V from him. HRH Prince Albert was still on the scene as was Disraeli. I kept putting The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi down to whip out my history books so I could track the differences. Rather than heading towards war with Germany, Britain is on the verge of creating a close alliance, thanks to Albert’s influences. Obviously the villain of the piece wants to create discord and prevent that happening. I enjoyed Hodder’s homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker himself shows up as a young boy and many of the strange events from about half way through this novel correlate with the ‘Crew of Light’s’ experiences.
This novel was an engrossing read but it has to be savoured slowly so you don’t miss out on the numerous references to Victorian characters and don’t get hideously confused by the alternate timeline.