Date read: 1.26.2013
Read online at Subterranean Press, Winter 2010 edition.
“The Bohemian Astrobleme” (2010) is another droll, diverting spy romp in Baker’s Company universe, the second to feature the spyin’, whorin’, but mostly shruggin’-at-the-foibles-of-men Women of Nell Gwynne’s. (After Baker’s death in 2010, her sister, Kathleen Bartholomew, finished her final novel of the Women, On Land and at Sea, which was just released this past December.)
This time, Lady Beatrice is dispatched to serve in a transcontinental operation regarding the acquisition of the titular mineral, of great scientific interest to the Company’s efforts, which are described as follows:
“The Society’s goal was the improvement of the human condition through the secret use of technologia, until such time as humanity became advanced enough to be made aware of its benefits. It was generally agreed that some sort of world domination would be necessary before that day arrived, but at the present time the Society was content merely to gather power and pull strings attached to certain government officials.”
The story is elegant, economical, briskly paced, and, as above, full of deadpan humor perfect in its quiet delivery. My only disappointment is that the depiction of Lady Beatrice doesn’t progress beyond that initially introduced in “The Women…” (cool, self-contained, effortlessly competent), since she’s a character begging for further development. A static sketch of a hypercompetent cipher is rarely fulfilling, no matter how entertaining. Inevitably, I’ll have to make it my business to pick up the novel.