Gary Greenwood. Jigsaw Men. (PS Publishing, 2004).

Greenwood creates an alternate England : one in which the sun has not set on our Empire, one in which Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ was a biography, and one in which the attempted invasion by Martians envisaged by HG Wells’ did actually happen.

The Jigsaw Men are those created or given life after death through the procedure developed by Herr Frankenstein, a procedure guarded jealously by allies Britain and Prussia, from the likes of upstart little countries like America.

The story is a crime thriller, as far as such genre-isations are possible or desirable. A young woman has gone missing – not a rare occurence in the steampunkish London. However the young woman is the daughter of notable MP, and so it is a top priority.
The detective on the case has some skeletons in his closet – ones belonging in truth to his (biological) father, whom we eventually find out is none other tha Dr David Livingstone, famous explorer, and a most famous recipient of the Frankenstein procedure, still alive long after his three score year and ten.

It transpires that the young woman is not missing, but has deliberately followed her elder sister into a life as a porn starlet, frequently on the recieving end of the services of their co-star Jigsaw Men, who are often surgically enhanced for their parts. Or, rather, whose parts are often surgically enhanced….

Some dastardly doings ensue, featuring an American businessman, one of the few from across the Atlantic on these shores, who is fermenting trouble. A veritable bloodbath of a finale ensues.

The intro to the novella makes mention of the author’s love of comics, and indeed, the story comes across at times as almost a novelisation of a movie version of a comic strip. The final shootout reads like a movie ending with people falling balletically down stairs and so forth. But for those who can spot them, the alternate history references, and occasional use of cockney rhyming slang (Barclays = Barclays Bank = w*nk), make up for what would otherwise by a fairly boilerplate story of its type.

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