Pryde and the Infernal Device

Written by Malcolm Archibald
Review by Mary Seeley

This novel continues the adventures of engineer, Matthew Pryde, which began in Pryde’s Rock (see HNR 39, Feb. 2007). In the spring of 1805, Matthew, now a mining engineer in Kent, finds his expertise called upon by those in high places. He is sent to France to look for evidence of an invasion tunnel being dug under the Channel. Accompanying him are the enigmatic Mr Black, and, rather unexpectedly, bluestocking Kate Denton. For Matthew and Kate, this is the beginning of a perilous adventure, which brings them to a close encounter with Madame la Guillotine herself.

The book is well researched—detailing Kentish May Day customs, coal-mining and early steamships—and mostly this fits seamlessly into the narrative. However, there are some awkwardly constructed phrases—Kate does not seem like a woman who would “scamper” or “trot”—and one or two odd similes involving zebras and the tango. The author also makes a number of references to significant events in Pryde’s Rock which would need further elaboration for someone (like me) who had not read the first book. These quibbles aside, I would recommend this book. It is a real edge-of-the-seat read, with a whiff of villainy and a strong dose of romance. Matthew is an unassuming yet valiant hero, and Kate makes a marvellous heroine: outspoken and brave, but with an interesting vulnerability and her own demons to fight. I would look forward to their future adventures.