European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, by Theodora Goss, continues the adventures of the Athena Club—a gathering of women who were all experiments and daughters of alchemists—from their meeting and formation the Club in The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. This time out, the Club are trying to rescue another daughter-experiment, one Lucinda Van Helsing.
I’ve broken my review up into two parts partially because this book is a doorstopper and partially because the book itself is divided into two parts.
Mary Jekyll receives a letter from her old teacher Mina regarding the disappearance of Lucinda Van Helsing, spurring her and Justine—disguised as Justin—to leave early for Vienna and the home of one Irene Norton nee Adler, via the Orient Express. They also have to borrow money from Sherlock Holmes, Mary’s employer, which they all chafe at, but needs must. Meanwhile, Diana Hyde, Mary’s sister, sneaks along with Mary and Justine. Sherlock goes missing shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, Catherine Moreau goes spying and finds out that Prendick, a member of the sinister Societe des Alchemistes—and her former lover until he abandoned her on an island—is still in town and has a meeting with other Societe members.
2—The Plot Thus Far
When Mary, Diana, and Justine disembark the Orient Express, Justine finds out that her cabinmate for the trip was actually a spy for the Societe. Irene then helps them sneak Diana into the asylum where she has determined Lucinda is being held. When they break Lucinda out, they’re attacked by strange men with pointy teeth who don’t die when shot.
Meanwhile, Cat and Alice, the Athena Club’s maid, go spy on Prendick and his cohorts. They discover an additional plot by Abraham Van Helsing to violently take over the Societe at the very meeting Mary, Justine, and Diana are headed for. Cat and Beatrice Rappaccini decide to go to Budapest by posing as members of a circus and then meet up with Mary, Justine, and Diana. After one of their performances, they’re approached by Irene, who informs them that Mary, Justine, Diana, and Lucinda have gone missing.
I enjoy the interactions between the members of the Athena Club, particularly Mary and Diana. They do seem to have an effect on one another, as Dr. Freud notes before agreeing to sneak Diana into the asylum. Irene in particular is a new favorite character. Bold and dashing, up to the latest in fashion and technology. And of course, there’s her cadre of young women spies.
I have so far loved European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman and look forward to finishing the book. Part One took just over half the book, and my sister says it gets even better in Part Two.