The Mysterious Case Of Mr Strangeway, by Karina Cooper

Series: The St Croix Chronicles #0.5 

Edition: Kindle

Publisher: Carina Press

Published: August 5th 2013


Although I have only been part of Society for two years, I am already desperate to escape its confines and eager for adventure. The world my deceased parents have left me is nothing more than a gilded prison, and I will do anything to escape the boredom, even become a collector of bounties.

My name is Cherry St. Croix, and I may be young, but I am old enough to know when I am in over my head. My first collection seemed easy: Mr. Strangeway’s debts have come due, and the purse for his capture is hefty. Yet the wastrel remains one step ahead of me, and my efforts are hampered by another collector after the same coin. What’s more, a simple hunt becomes the forefront of a conspiracy that leads me on a chase through London’s low-class streets.

Not only does my pride demand success, but the well-being of many rest upon the choices I make—failure is not an outcome I can live with.

Having bought Tarnished, the first full-length novel in this series, a while before this novella was released (and just before I discovered what an entertaining soul the author herself is), I’m very glad I grabbed this and read it before starting on the novels. Chronologically it is a prequel to the first novel, set a few years earlier and detailing Cherry St Croix’s very first experience as a “collector”, or bounty hunter, in the steampunk-altverse London of Karina Cooper’s devising. Steampunk themes are one of my undeniable geeky pleasures, so I was happy to spend the money despite being largely unfamiliar with Cooper previously. 

Now? I’m all kinds of into this world. Mr Strangeway is told from a first person perspective, and Cherry is quite the vivid character – as first-person narrators ought to be. Born among the upper class and clearly chafing at the fact, Cherry takes the earliest opportunity to immerse herself in the lower and dirtier London life – she’s determined to become a collector. She also has an opium habit, and is formidable to the point of foolish when we first meet her. As most people inexperienced in their chosen pursuits tend to do, she makes a cringe-worthy mess of her first collection, and her sheer stubbornness and her ego keep her bulling through until the end. As might be evident, she does come out the other side in one piece – but her experiences on the way through are what will keep me invested, just as they’ve done for Cherry. 

Despite screwing up her first attempt to capture her bounty, she ends up involved in a much riskier venture when she decides to help Strangeway with a problem of his own. Along the way she meets Micajah Hawke, the ringmaster of a local circus (because of course), and though there’s perhaps no Obvious Token Romantic Fling to be found here, I am thoroughly fascinated by Hawke and would like to subscribe to that proverbial newsletter.

(Stop snickering.)

This novella doesn’t read like the ‘same old’ fluffy-hearted romp that I had half expected, however. Cherry’s narrative voice is a good one, and while she may not be the Badass Unstoppable Heroine at this stage in the game, there’s definitely a character with plenty of potential for fascinating things here. I look forward to seeing what stories she can tell me next. Kudos to Cooper for pulling that off!

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