INecromancers can be detectives too. Of course if the necromancer in question is a certain Johannes Cabal, I suspect there are any number of things he could be. Metallurgist? Horologist? Alchemist? I rather like all these ideas. Now if only his creator, the unstoppable Jonathan Howard, would take note.
In any event, this time Cabal is trying to escape the authorities of some uptight country called Senza because he's stolen a priceless and much-guarded book from its national library. To seal his escape, he dons the identity of one of its civil servants, and proceeds to board the Princess Hortense. This vessel, however, is not a ship, but an aeroship...it even comes with its own delightfully detailed diagram. It's a kind of zeppelin-meets-hot air balloon, and it is here that Cabal runs into some serious trouble. As though impersonating a somewhat-sociable civil servant weren't hard enough, now he has to contend with someone trying to off him by pushing him off the Hortense!
Leonie Barrow from the previous novel, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, is a prominent character here too. The author does try to explain Cabal's and Leonie's antecedents, but readers who haven't read Necromancer might end up feeling a bit foggy. The rest of the cast though is brand new, and no one has any trouble being memorable. The format is classic old-world evening-dress and chit-chat laden, with the quintessential 'suicide or murder' question being presented early in the voyage of the Hortense. Cabal with his relentlessly probing brain notices things about the 'suicide'; very soon after he begins investigating comes the attempt on his life and then he really starts to play detective.
"Play" is of course a loosely-used term. Cabal is still Cabal, after all: a misanthropic loner who only wants to pursue his science in peace. Still, there's the complication of his having gotten his soul back from Satan in his previous caper, so now he has to deal with strange new feelings, i.e., his own conscience. And the redoubtable Miss Barrow is always giving him headaches too.
All is tied up at the end. I did have a fundamental question about how one of the main characters even got to be a passenger aboard the aeroship considering its ultimate mission, but I will let it rest. There was enough else going on to occupy me, this being a different world altogether from the carnival-train of Necromancer. However, I did miss Horst, Cabal's hip brother, and kept hoping he would make an appearance somehow.