Fiendish Schemes is difficult to follow because the plot keeps changing. Just when the reader begins to understand the unbelievable plot, Jeter changes it again. His version of London is just too strange to read about comfortably; nearly everything is completely unimaginable. The characters are stubborn and two- dimensional, but some do have surprising secrets. Despite the unbelievable changes, one of the biggest secrets in the book is actually predictable. The only true surprise comes from the unexpected plot twists that complicate the reading experience.
George Dower has returned from his chosen exile in a remote English village to try and collect money from his late father’s recently popularized invention: a walking lighthouse. His first attempt fails, but in the middle of the night Vicar Stonebrake appears and describes a solution to Dower. If he helps Stonebrake locate the late Dower’s Vox Universalis, the device could allow communication with whales and the ocean which in turn means guaranteed bets on the moves of the walking lighthouse companies. When he arrives in London to begin the search, Dower discovers a world powered by Steam that holds endless secrets; Steam has truly become a part of every aspect of upper-class London life and government in ways Dower could never have imagined. He soon discovers that Stonebrake’s plot is not as he explained, but much more complicated and dangerous than Dower ever expected. (TOR, Oct., 352 pp., $25.99)