An engaging read.
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
Captain Charles Maddox returns secretly to London from an exile in disgrace only to be arrested, imprisoned, and threatened with the death penalty. He is rescued by a shadowy government agency called the Map Room who give him a choice: return to prison or become an agent, codenamed Sterling, and help them uncover a government conspiracy connected to the Ripper murders.
Led by the coolly calculating Milady and her associate Collier, and aided by fellow agent Church and mechanical computer expert Patience, the freshly appointed Agent Sterling must rapidly learn his new trade if he is to survive the murky and violent fringes of Victorian life and uncover a secret that threatens the Empire itself.
Set in 1896 in an alternative Victorian timeline where mechanical computers are a part of everyday life, The Sterling Directive blends fact and fiction to create a gripping thriller for fans of espionage and historical adventure alike.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
The Sterling Directive by Tim Standish is extremely engaging and absorbing. Pardon the adverb but there are no two words about it.
A BLEND OF THREE GENRES
Set in an alternate nineteenth-century Britain, ruled by Queen Victoria, the book seamlessly blends three genres – historical fiction, science fiction, and thriller to create a dark yet intriguing read. Here, mechanical engines are a part of everyday life much like computers in the present day. Further, airships are a prevalent mode of transportation in Standish’s alternate universe.
With these fantastical elements in place, The Sterling Directive begins on an excellent note. Eight years ago, Maddox was exiled in disgrace to Canada. He secretly returns to London to meet his ailing father only to be imprisoned once more and plunges headfirst into the same murky circumstances that initiated his exile.
What were those circumstances? We do not know.
Standish keeps the mystery intact till the end. If one was not enough, he introduces another: who is Jack the Ripper? Both these threads work well in tandem to produce a deliciously dark and enthralling historical mystery.
REMARKABLY FASCINATING CHARACTERS
Standish crafts fully fleshed-out characters.
Maddox, our troubled protagonist, trying to survive the dire situations he finds himself in numerous times, is ably supported by an ensemble cast.
Church, a laconic man, is Maddox’s reluctant friend, philosopher, and guide, but soon reaches a level of understanding with Maddox.
Milady, the woman in charge of the Map Room is a deceptively sweet person; her mask falls away when she is alone with the team. Then she becomes a fox – cold and calculating.
Patience is an expert on mechanical computers, the equivalent of a modern-day computer geek. Oh, how many times, she swoops in to save the day.
And finally, there is Collier, who efficiently aids Milady in keeping the activities of Map Room as discreet as possible.
With these motley crew of characters, the investigation into the Ripper murders as well as the Maddox’s own story via flashbacks is a captivating read. Standish’s sharp writing further bolsters the strength of the clever plot. Reading The Sterling Directive felt like seeing a master conjuror in action. Every time I picked up the book, I could not stop reading without completing 50-60 pages due to the exquisite worldbuilding and the fast pace.
The mystery unravels at the end with all the loose ends tied up and hints towards the possibility of a sequel. I look forward to reading more of Maddox’s foray into the world of spies.
My only complaint with the book is it gets a little long-winded near to the climax as the team chases multiple leads.
This minor quibble aside, Tim Standish’s The Sterling Directive has a stellar beginning, an exhilarating middle where the mystery deepens and a satisfactory climax with deft handling of the alternate timeline of 19th century Britain. Highly recommended for fans of historical thriller and science fiction.
Many thanks to Anne Cater @Random Things Tours for organizing this blog tour. Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book. This does not affect my opinion on the book. I opted to provide an honest review on my blog.
Genre: Historical crime & mysteries, Thriller / suspense || 304 pages || Published on 20th August 2020 by Unbound
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Tim Standish grew up in England, Scotland and Egypt. Following a degree in Psychology, his career has included teaching English in Spain, working as a researcher on an early computer games project, and working with groups and individuals on business planning, teamworking and personal development. He has travelled extensively throughout his life and when not working or writing, he enjoys long walks under big skies and is never one to pass up a jaunt across a field in search of an obscure historic site. He has recently discovered the more-exciting-than-you-would-think world of overly-complicated boardgames.
Author links: Twitter