I was agreeably surprised by The Clown Service, not so much by the body of the book but by the clever punch of its ending, which exacted a heavy price for the heroes’ effort to outmanoeuvre the bad guys. The book had rambled a bit, but it really floored it when it got to the off-ramp.
By comparison, The Rain Soaked Bride feels like the engine is idling. The book opens up by sorting out the cliffhanger of the first book as if it wasn’t even a thing. Hmm, I thought. Maybe you weren’t serious after all. And if I’m honest, it isn’t even as if I wanted Guy Adams to be serious. He’s very good at being funny. The opening chapters of the book play like those opening jokes you get in a TV show before they get down to the plot of the week, and in fact, that’s really what’s wrong with The Rain Soaked Bride overall; it felt like a good episode of TV instead of a book. The main characters are stuck in a country house, and a curse is knocking off the ancillary characters one by one. How well this works depends on how well the main characters work for you. You need a high quirk tolerance, that’s for sure.
If you’ve got that, the August siblings and Toby Greene are fun to be around. August Shining, in particular, has the perfect deadpan of a man who has had a whole lifetime to get used to the knowledge that being right is not much use in a world which wants to believe something else.
Things end on a cliffhanger again, although this one seems almost to bottle the hard choices; it’s set up as an echo of the climax of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so that anyone who’s read the book or seen the movie was waiting for it “We have all the time in the world.” We get the line, but not the closure. So now I have to wait to see whether there’s another fakeout in the next book.