The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (#1)

Next: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

It is 1861, and Albertian Britain is in the grip of conflicting forces. Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labour; Libertines oppose restrictive and unjust laws and flood the country with propaganda demanding a society based on beauty and creativity; while The Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour to the limits with magic, sexuality, drugs and anarchy.

Returning from his failed expedition to find the source of the Nile, explorer, linguist, scholar and swordsman Sir Richard Francis Burton finds himself sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, employs him as ‘King’s Spy’. His first mission: to investigate the sexual assaults committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack; to find out why chimney sweeps are being kidnapped by half-man, half-dog creatures; and to discover the whereabouts of his badly injured former friend, John Hanning Speke.

Accompanied by the diminutive and pain-loving poet, Algernon Swinburne, Burton’s investigations lead him back to one of the defining events of the age: the brutal assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840; and the terrifying possibility that the world he inhabits shouldn’t exist at all.


“If you’re looking for a cold night’s entertainment, this high-spirited mix of fact and fancy will do quite nicely, quite nicely indeed.”

The Washington Post

“Remarkable [...] A rollicking ride through the underbelly of the steampunk world.”

Portland Book Review

“Worthy of any science fiction library.”


“The usual superlatives for really clever fantasy (imaginative, mind-bending, phantasmagorical) aren’t nearly big enough for this debut novel. With this one book, Hodder has put himself on the genre map […] The book is incredibly ambitious, and the author pulls it off like an old pro: not only is the setting exciting and fresh, the story is thrilling and full of surprises. Hodder’s only problem now is to find a way to follow up this exhilarating debut, which will appeal not only to sf/fantasy readers but also to mystery and historical-fiction fans.”

Booklist, Starred Review

“Fans of steampunk will be intrigued by the alternate history setting, in which the queen dies mid-century; they will also enjoy following Burton and his sidekick, poet Algernon Swinburne, as they investigate the dark secrets of 19th-century England and recall Burton’s legendary expedition to find the source of the Nile.”

Publishers Weekly

“Hodder’s first novel delivers an exquisitely fleshed-out blend of steam-punk and gothic horror that should have broad appeal.”

Library Journal

“Mark Hodder’s debut novel, THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK, is a remarkably sophisticated and well-executed manifestation of the [steampunk] sub-genre […] He has created a compulsively readable romp that recalls the best of Tim Powers and James Blaylock.”

Barnes & Noble Newsletter

“A phenomenal first novel deserving of the recently won Philip K. Dick Award […] If this is the “punk” Hodder wants to see steampunk look like, then I say with Oliver Twist, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

“Many of the events that occur in the narrative are drawn from real-life history, and Hodder’s use of a twisted timeline as explanation is ingenious. Plus, there are werewolves. What’s not to love?”

Wisconsin State Journal

“I loved the thrills and chills, and my inner historian geeked out all over to see Burton and Swinburne together (Hodder hews quite closely to Burton’s biography, which raises the novel’s impact several notches), but it’s the way the mystery comes together that kept me turning the pages. Start this one only if you have some time on your hands; it won’t be easy to put it down.”


“Hodder’s debut is genius. I don’t think there are very many other ways to put it. His plotting is intricate and intriguing, his voice is superb, the characters are engaging and original and all of it is so unexpectedly fun. There is no better adjective to describe such all-around greatness. Genius.”

LEC Book Reviews

“Debut novelist Mark Hodder outrageously reinvents both Victorian England and pulp fiction in the guise of a complicated time-travel novel.”

Fantasy Magazine

“I’ve never read anything quite like THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK before, and my guess is neither have you. Imagine the best time travel story you’ve ever read crossed with the greatest B-movie ever filmed crossed with one of the most intelligently crafted, richly detailed alternate histories ever composed crossed with any number of oddball delights and shrewd political and social satire to boot, and you might have some idea of how ingenious this novel is.”

Rob Will Review

“This was a blast of alternate Victoriana, peppered with a cast who veered from credible to Dick Van Dyke and back again.”

SF Site

“An enjoyable read, the pleasures of spending time in a slightly altered past are all here, the characterizations of everyday people, and the heroes, are spot on, and there’s plenty of adventure along the way.”

SF Site

“The Spring Heeled Jack mythos is used to great effect […] If you like time travel and alternative history this would definitely be worth your attention and if you are just a plain-old fan of Steampunk this is another must to add to the to-read pile.”

The Mad Hatter, Best Steampunk novel of the year, 2010

“Hodder’s prose will lift you up and drop you down in the midst (and mists) of Victorian Era London […] SPRING HEELED JACK never once failed to entertain.”

The Alternative

“Mark Hodder’s THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK takes the grandfather paradox and runs with it in spectacular fashion […] This book was an absolute hoot to read. It’s wild. It’s inventive. It’s gripping. I can only hope that Hodder’s future books measure up to this one, because THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK will be damned hard to top.”

Textual Frigate

“THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK is a delicious mystery wrapped in a time of social change in an alternative steampunk Victorian age […] This book managed to seem light despite its dark tones, gave brilliant life to historical figures and social worries while adding unique touches all Hodder’s own.”

Bookworm Blues

“THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK is richly detailed, complex and exciting […] I eagerly await the sequel.”

Literary Landscapes

“One of the very best examples of this (steampunk) genre is Mark Hodder’s THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK […] The book masterfully combines historical fact with an imaginative and well-developed alternate world, full of real people, like Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, and Oscar Wilde. Time travel, speculative science, and bioengineered animals, a smart and witty plot, plus plenty of action and adventure give this book wide appeal. Readers who enjoy historical fiction and would like to branch out into science fiction should try this book, which stays true to both genres.”

By the Book

“It’s like reading a Dickens novel with ray guns […] Hodder’s sequel THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN is due out this March, and this reader is definitely looking forward to seeing where he goes with the series.”

Worlds Without End

“An inventive melting pot of speculative fiction staples that should intrigue and satisfy even the most jaded genre readers […] Mark Hodder’s take on steampunk is fresh and entertaining.”

Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

“In THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK, Hodder has combined what never happened with what did take place, to wonderful effect […] Burton and Swinburn make an excellent (if somewhat unpredictable) team, and the story is nonstop action.”

Steampunk Librarian

“Hodder renders the atmosphere of this story in wonderful detail, allowing the reader to be sucked into the world […] I’ll enjoy every moment of adventure set in this one.”

The Reader Eclectic

“Urban legends, creatures out of folklore, and real life heroes converge in Mark Hodder’s fantastic debut novel […] Great fun indeed, and an impressive debut.”

SFF World

“Hodder’s SPRING HEELED JACK is bloody brilliant […] His smoggy London is full of mad scientists and of marvels and engineering, edgy and dangerous.”

The Little Red Reviewer

“THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK is a truly inventive fantasy that gratifies the reader […] the Burton and Swinburne series could really go places.”

Dirty Sexy Books

“Would-be steampunk writers will now have to work double duty to top this one! […] A rip roaring good yarn! Douglas Adams would have been proud.”

Astro Guyz

“THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK, I’m happy to say, does not disappoint […] Hodder does a good job of portraying the seedy side of London, especially during Butron’s trips into the poorer parts of town; we get a more honest sense of how much of the population lives, it seems to me than we often do in these sort of novels.”

“THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK is fun, plain and simple. It is fun to see Hodder take familiar historical characters such as Burton, Queen Victoria, and even Florence Nightingale, and twist them into their alternate selves, living in a world half-crazed by moral and technological dilemmas.”

“Like something out of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, ‘Burton and etc.’ is utterly non-stop. Hodder has his way with both history and historical figures, but manages to be entertainingly informative and thrillingly over-the-top.”

Agony Column

“A most worthy winner. Takes the Steampunk genre and instead on ringing on changes already overplayed, fuses Steampunk with British history, time travel, alternate history and more into a novel that is a joy to read.”

Functional Nerds

“This is an exhilarating romp through a witty combination of nineteenth-century English fact and fiction. Mark Hodder definitely knows his stuff and has given us steam opera at its finest […] A great, increasingly complex plot, some fine characters, and invention that never flags! It gets better and better, offering clues to some of Victorian London’s strangest mysteries. This is the best debut novel I have read in ages.”

Michael Moorcock

“Mark Hodder makes clever use of a variety of elements to create an atmospheric story that is part steampunk, part mystery story, part detective adventure.”

Fantasy Guide (Germany)

“Mark Hodder has a thoroughly enjoyable and fluid style. We practically devoured his book and can only recommend the second installment in his Burton & Swinburne series.”

Fachbuchkritic (Germany)

“Mark Hodder clearly stands out in the current glut of Fantasy writing. He is a deft and amusing juggler of historical figures, references and philosophies, creating a dark and bizarre mix of the past, the future and the important issues of the present.”

Coburger Tageblatt (Coburg, Germany)

Awards & Accolades


Winner 2010 Philip K. Dick Award