For more than thirty years, James P. Blaylock has enthralled and delighted readers with a series of stories, novels and novellas featuring Langdon St. Ives, adventurer, man of science, Victorian gentleman.
The best of these, such as Beneath London, Lord Kelvin’s Machine, and The Aylesford Skull are among the most stylish, consistently witty entertainment’s of recent years. The Gobblin’ Society, the latest episode in St. Ives’s colorful career, belongs very much in that company.
The story begins with an inheritance. Following a protracted legal battle, Alice St. Ives, Langdon’s wife, has come into full possession of Seaward, the house left to her by her late Uncle Godfrey, a man with a number of bizarre proclivities. Heartened by this good fortune, Alice, Langdon and their surrogate son Finn prepare to take possession of the house. From this point forward, events spin out of control, taking on a madcap logic of their own that is exhilarating and, in typical Blaylock fashion, often quite funny.
What follows is, in a sense, a tale of two houses. The first, of course, is Seaward, a “rambling, eccentric old house” with it its history, its secrets, its priceless accumulation of volumes of arcane lore. The other is a neighbouring house known, for good reasons, as “Gobblin’ Manor,” home base of The Gobblin’ Society, a “culinary establishment” with its own peculiar, and very dark, traditions.
In the course of an event filled few days, St. Ives and his cohorts will encounter smuggling, mesmerism, kidnapping, cannibalism and murder. It is, in other words, a typical, and typically eccentric, Langdon St. Ives adventure.
Like its predecessors, this latest extravaganza is fast-paced, unpredictable, and a thorough delight to read. Few novelists evoke the essence of Victorian England as successfully as Blaylock.
Fewer still bring such wit, style, and propulsive narrative talents to the task. In The Gobblin’ Society, Blaylock has given vibrant new life to one of his signature creations.
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