cover image The Peculiarities

The Peculiarities

David Liss. Tachyon, $17.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-61696-358-3

Edgar winner Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) isn’t at his best in this lackluster alternate history set in 1899 London. Thomas Thresher was forced by his father, Samuel, to leave his mathematics studies at Cambridge prematurely. Following Samuel’s death, Thomas’s older brother, Walter, takes over running the family bank and Thomas is compelled to join as a junior clerk. Meanwhile, the city is plagued by paranormal developments dubbed the Peculiarities: sudden, heavy fogs descend on the streets; people’s bodies undergo strange transformations; and women give birth to litters of rabbits. Walter insists Thomas marry Esther Feldstein, the daughter of a businessman Walter hopes to partner with, even as Thomas notices leaves sprouting from his own skin. Then, after Thomas discovers that their bank has been buying up debts of practicing magicians—among them William Butler Yeats—but not seeking to collect money owed, he and Esther investigate. The historical figures Liss employs aren’t treated well, but the biggest drawback here is the absence of suspense or even urgency in the face of a threat to all human life. Gaslamp fantasy fans will be disappointed. [em]Agent: Howard Morhaim, Morhaim Literary. (Sept.) [/em]