As I've been reading more SFF, I've discovered there are certain publishers whose books I keep coming back to - Angry Robot is one of those companies and often seems to publish things I'm going to like, with The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter being no exception to that rule.
Essentially, it's a steampunk story, but one where the UK has been divided in the mid-19th century by a line drawn between the Wash and Wales. South of that line, in the Kingdom, indentured servitude is still legal but women can own businesses in their own right; north of the line, in the Anglo-Scottish Republic it's the other way around.The only agency with power in both is the International Patent Office, whose jurisdiction is worldwide.
Born in the Kingdom, the daughter of a circus ringmaster, Elizabeth Barnabus was forced to flee north when her family was bankrupted by a corrupt landowner, and now she works as a private investigator just north of the border between the two countries. Because of the legal set-up in the Republic, she is forced to pretend to have a brother and disguise herself as him to do business, living essentially a double life.
A case brings Elizabeth into contact with the International Patent Office and also back into the circus, before taking her south once more and back into danger. The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter benefits from both solid world-building and the uniqueness of its setting - for once we're in Leicester and the surrounding countryside, rather than London (at least for most of the book) and that's a positive change from the norm. At one point in the middle of the book the pacing of the overall story lags a little and the main male character (and likely potential love interest) is a little two-dimensional for now, but these are minor issues.
The series continues with Unseemly Science, which has just been published, so it'll probably be a while before I catch up with it but I definitely intend to do so...