by Gary Greenwood
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Iíve long been a fan of Michael Bishopís novel Brittle Innings, which postulates that Victor Frankensteinís experiments in reanimating the dead were successful and that Frankensteinís monster eventually found his way to the United States during World War II. In Jigsaw Men, Gary Greenwood also accepts Mary Shelleyís novel as factual, but also has determined that H.G. Wellsís novel The War of the Worlds was also an account of events which actually happened. His world, therefore, is one in which the Prussians possess the secret of animating dead tissue and the British possess the technology of the Martians.
Following a second World War, a balance of power is maintained between the British and Prussian empires, who now share their scientific technology while jealously guarding it from the French and the Americans. Into this world is placed Detective Livingstone, assigned to locate the location of the missing eighteen year old daughter Lord Trafalgar, Minister of the Judiciary.
Greenwood has written a good detective story with an interesting background. As is often the case in works like this, it isnít just a matter of finding the missing girl. Livingstone and his partners quickly learn that they are on to something much bigger. There ability to solve the various mysteries is based as much on their skill as detectives as it is on luck, although a mostly believable sort of luck.Seen through Livingstoneís mostly dispassionate, professional eyes, there is a distance to the crimes committed in the book which decreases any horror which the reader may feel at the crimes or the scope of the conspiracies, made even more distant by the very persistent knowledge that the world Livingstone lives in is not our own. Nevertheless, the characters, particularly Livingstone and his partners, come across as real people rather than caricatures. With only a limited amount of space, Greenwood is able to present them as well rounded, with backgrounds, even when he isnít explicit about those backgrounds.
Jigsaw Men isn't a whodunit, but rather a novel which fits together like a jigsaw puzzle itself. Greenwood provides the clues and challenges the reader to put together all the pieces before Livingstone's denouement, and even then, Greenwood is happy to provide another twist for the reader who thinks he has figured everything out.