It is New Year’s Eve, 1881, and Special Agent Gillian Hamilton of the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam is back in New York after his big case in Shallow Grave, Arizona. He hasn’t seen or heard from Gunner since the men parted in Arizona, but Gunner left Gillian a note promising to meet him for the holiday. Gillian has found himself unable to stop thinking of Gunner, both the wonderful way the man made him feel, but also how with Gunner he had a chance to embrace that side of himself that he keeps hidden. Gillian is thrilled to finally get a chance to reconnect with Gunner and explore the feelings that are developing between them.
Gillian is dealing with complications at work, however, as they are facing a new gangster in town, known as Tick Tock, who is using an elemental magic ammunition that is highly dangerous. While the Bureau has been able to catch some of the various players involved with Tick Tock, no one seems to have ever actually seen the man in person. On top of that, their suspects keep getting killed in suspicious ways. While Gillian would love to do nothing but curl up with Gunner, as things escalate, he has no choice but to work with the case with Gunner along for the ride. It isn’t easy, particularly as Gunner the Deadly is one of the country’s most wanted men. He must be very careful who sees him in order to keep from getting locked up himself.
As the men dig further into the investigation, it is clear that Tick Tock is up to even more serious threats, including creating mechanical men that are specially built to resist magical attacks. But Gillian is a strong caster, stronger than anyone knows, and he makes a formidable foe. With Gunner at his side, Gillian is determined to bring down Tick Tock and stop the attacks before the city is destroyed.
The Gangster is the second book in C.S. Poe’s excellent Magic and Steam series. I went crazy for the first book in this series, The Engineer, so I was so excited to jump back into this steampunk world for the second book. Poe does such a wonderful job creating an immersive world here and, as much as I enjoyed the first book’s setting in the old west, I really enjoyed seeing New York City reimagined. There is a great sense of life in the city in the 1880s, with the addition of steampunk elements to give it a bit of a twist. Poe incorporates great details and little moments that really bring it all to life. For example, Grand Central is reimagined as a station for airships to land. I found it a lot of fun and there is just a great atmosphere and sense of place to these books. Overlaid with the steampunk elements is the magical world building. This gives us a chance to not only see Gillian in action, as he utilizes his electrical powers, but also to delve more into his character, as he has abilities he chooses to keep hidden. It all combines together with the mystery/investigation side of things to bring a really thrilling case. The storyline is exciting (and somewhat horrifying) and I loved watching the men investigate, as well as seeing Gillian’s incredible strength and power.
There are some books where I fall in love with the characters so completely that it takes the story to a different level, and that is the case here for me with Gillian and Gunner. I just adore these guys, both individually and together. Gunner is this super tough, strong, and notorious criminal, but he is also sweet, kind, and incredibly perceptive. He sees Gillian in a way few others do, which is so critical as Gillian keeps so much of himself hidden by nature. We saw in the first book just how lonely Gillian is, how much he holds himself back, as he doesn’t think he will be accepted. As his relationship with Gunner develops, not only does Gillian get the physical companionship he has so long desired, but someone who truly cares about him. Here in this story, Gillian is coming more into his own. He has fewer insecurities about his interest in men and what that means about him; Gunner encourages Gillian to embrace who he is and what he wants. I just love the way Gunner’s support really helps Gillian find himself and feel a confidence and a happiness he is lacking outside his magic.
This story ties up a lot of the Tick Tock plot, but I would call it a soft cliffhanger in that there are quite a few threads still open. Things are solid with the men, and they have expressed a desire to continue being together, but how that works for a NYC lawman and a Wild West criminal is not totally clear yet. There are also some elements of the mystery plot that are left open and lead into the next book as well. And the biggie is that we get some information on Gillian’s mysterious past as the book comes to an end that is opening up a whole new avenue of the story to explore.
I am really loving this series and just adore these characters. I think Poe has created something really fun and fascinating with these books, and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment!