Lavie Tidhar is author of Osama, The Violent Century, A Man Lies Dreaming, Central Station, Unholy Land, By Force Alone, The Hood and The Escapement. His latest novels are Neom and Maror. His awards include the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the Neukom Prize and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize.

-World Fantasy Award winner of Osama (2011)
-Locus and Campbell award nomination for Unholy Land (2018)
-British Fantasy Award nomination for By Force Alone (2021)
-Philip K. Dick Award nomination for The Escapement (2021)
-Locus Award nomination for Neom (2022)
-Writer for Washington Post
-Articles/bylines have appeared in The Independent, The Guardian, and SFX

The Bookman Histories 3 - The Great Game by Lavie Tidhar

When Mycroft Holmes is murdered in London, it is up to retired shadow executive Smith to track down his killer - and stumble on the greatest conspiracy of his life. Strange forces are stirring into life around the globe, and in the shadow game of spies nothing is certain. Fresh from liberating a strange alien object in Abyssinia - which might just be the mythical Ark of the Covenant - young Lucy Westerna, Holmes' protégé, must follow her own path to the truth while, on the other side of the world, a young Harry Houdini must face his greatest feat of escape - death itself.

As their paths converge the body count mounts up, the entire world is under threat, and in a foreboding castle in the mountains of Transylvania a mysterious old man weaves a spider's web of secrets and lies.

Airship battles, Frankenstein monsters, alien tripods and death-defying The Great Game is a cranked-up steampunk thriller in which nothing is certain - not even death.

And furthermore... venture deeper into the Lost Files of the Bookman Histories, as Professor Tidhar explores the "Dynamics of an Asteroid"!


I couldn't resist including this early trilogy of mine in the bundle, a sort of love letter to 19th century popular literature! – Lavie Tidhar



  • "An emerging master,"

    – LOCUS Magazine



Chapter One

The boy didn't know he was about to die, which must have been a blessing. He was an ordinary boy whose job it was to take messages, without being privy to the contents of said messages. The boy walked along the canal. The sun was setting and in its dying light the observer could see a solitary, narrow boat, laden with bananas and pineapples and durian, passing on the water on the way home from market.

Two monks in saffron robes walked ahead of the boy, conversing in low voices. A sleepy crocodile floated by the bank of the canal, ignored by the few passers-by. It was a quiet part of town, away from the farang quarters, and the boy was on his way home, home being a small room on one of the canals, shared with his parents and brothers and sisters, alongside many such rooms all crowded together. The observer could smell the durian from a distance as the boat went past, and he could smell chilli and garlic frying from a stall hidden from view, in one of the adjacent sois, the narrow, twisting alleyways of this grand city. Its residents called it Krung Thep, the City of Angels. The farangs still called it by its old name, which was Bangkok.

The observer followed behind the boy. He was unremarkable. He would have been unremarkable in nearly every human country, on any continent. He was small of build, with skin just dark enough, just pale enough, to pass for Siamese, or European, or Arab, or, depending on the place and the angle of the sun, an African. His face was hidden behind a wide-brimmed hat but, had he turned and tilted his head, it, too, would have been unremarkable – they had taken great care to ensure that that would be so.

The observer followed the boy because the boy was a link in a long and complicated chain that he was following. He didn't feel one way or the other about the boy's imminent death. Death meant little to the observer. The concept was too alien. The boy, not knowing he was being followed, was whistling. He was not Siamese or Chinese, but rather Hmong, of a family that had come to Krung Thep from the highlands of Laos, one of the king's territories to the north-east. The observer didn't care a great deal about that.

He caught up with the boy as the boy was turning away from the canal, down a narrow soi. People passed them both but the observer ignored them, his attention trained on the boy. He caught up with him in the shadow of a doorway and put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

The boy began to formulate a question, began to turn around, but never got a chance to complete either action. The observer slid what could have been a very narrow, very sharp blade – but wasn't, not quite – into the soft area at the back of the boy's head.

The blade went through skin and fat and bone, piercing the brain stem and the hippocampus and reaching deep into the brain. The boy emitted a sigh, a minute exhalation of air, perhaps in surprise, perhaps in pain. His legs buckled underneath him. The observer, now participant, gently caught him so that he didn't fall but, rather, was gently lowered to the ground.

The whole thing only took a moment. When it was done the observer withdrew the thing that was not quite a blade, but functioned as one, which was as much a part of him as his skeleton or the cells that made up his skin. His skeleton was not entirely human and his brain not at all, and he was currently experiencing some new sensations, one of which was bewilderment and another being anger, neither of which had troubled him before.

He stopped before the fallen boy and put his hands together, palms touching, the hands away from the chest and raised high, in a wai. He bowed to the body of the boy. The voices inside him were whispering.

Having paid his respects the observer straightened. He stepped away from the darkened doorway and into the street outside. The sun had set and it was growing darker and torches and small fires were being lit across the city. He could smell fish roasting, wood catching fire, fish sauce, and the coming rain. The boy had been a link in a chain and now it pointed the observer in a new direction. He walked away, not hurrying, an unassuming man whose face was hidden behind a wide-brimmed hat, and as he turned the corner he heard, behind him, the start of screams.