Camera Obscura (The Bookman 2) by Lavie Tidhar [Book Review]

Gatling wielding Amazon & an Alien mystery

I was really impressed after reading The Bookman so this was a book with a lot to live up to. This is in the same world but the setting is Paris some three years later. The French here had a revolution but it was the Quiet Revolution made by machines. The events in the Bookman are mentioned in passing but this is more of a standalone story in the same universe although there are arcs that I think will tie in from both books in the next one.

It is starts with the mysterious murder of an Asian man who used to be pregnant with an alien object that was cut out of his dead body. Lady ‘Cleo’ de Winter is on the case for the Quiet Council. She is a kick-ass lady with a big colt revolver and an attitude.

The Quiet Council doesn’t tell its operatives much so Mylady has to uncover a lot of background by herself before she start to understand what is going on. It is a bit uncaring from their side but they are machines so what do you expect. The whole hunt for the object brings back memories to the Saturday adventure shows of my youth just with added steampunk gadgets, machine people, the royal lizards and alien mysteries. It is a lot grittier though.

I like the story even if it is a bit over the top but it never really reach the feeling of the first book. To be honest I found the characters although they are quirky and interesting a bit shallow. Cleo is not the most emphatic heroine but that is understandable with her background and upbringing but it made it hard for me to really connect with her. It wasn’t until the last part in the book that I really started to root for her. Maybe I just miss the banter that makes me tick.

I like the world building better. The whole secret societies, ancient China, conspiracies add a spice I enjoyed. Another great taste is the French setup with the cops bowing to the Quiet Council, the underground city and the different quirky bars, shops and clubs we get to know. The alien mysteries that started with the Lizards continue with this book and add another dimension to it in its thrilling and satisfying ending.

Camera Obscura is a good read, packed with gritty action and quirky characters. It has a strong female protagonist in Lady de Winter and to be honest I can’t wait to read the next one. I want to know what comes next.

Book Information

Camera Obscura (The Bookman 2) by Lavie Tidhar (Angry Robot 2011) – Review copy – Amazon US | UK


The mysterious and glamorous Milady De Winter is one of their most valuable agents. A despicable murder inside a locked and bolted room on the Rue Morgue in Paris is just the start. This whirlwind adventure will take Milady to the highest and lowest parts of that great city, and beyond – and cause her to question the very nature of reality itself.

A breathtaking alternate Victorian history adventure, set in the same world as The Bookman.

File under: Steampunk [ Alternate History | Reptilian Royalty | Murder Most Foul | The World’s Fair ]