Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers

Nobody’s Home is subtitled An Anubis Gates Story, which helped to draw me towards reading this story because I had heard good things about The Anubis Gates, although I have not read it.

In an alternate nineteenth-century London, ghosts haunt the living, and some magics work, if not routinely then with a certain amount of reliability. The story follows Jacky Snapp, who apparently also plays a role in The Anubis Gates, and one of the first puzzles of the story is figuring out why Jacky spent the evening before the novella’s first scene “tracking down a beggar who was rumored to have fur growing all over him like an ape” but who had turned out, after Jacky cornered him and aimed a flintlock pistol at him, “to be only a very hairy old fellow with a prodigious beard—not the half-legendary man she had devoted her life to finding and killing.”

The rest of the novella reels out at a rapid pace; no sooner has she determined that the beggar is not her quarry than she rescues a woman from burning in the energies released by magic that hadn’t been as reliable as advertised. The story proceeds as a chase on several levels: the two women chasing the knowledge they need, ghosts chasing them, Jacky chasing her quarry, unsavory if mundane sorts chasing the women in rainy London streets. The final encounters are as chilling as the chases leading up to them as heart-pumping.

Nobody’s Home is one of two novellas I read in an afternoon. Good fun, and a reason to read the longer story that it precedes.

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