A sequel to New Bridge to Lyndesfarne, the novel once again follows Kevin and Tanji as they investigate the mysterious death of a microbial epidemiologist, who was found in the exact centre of the New Bridge shortly after its official opening. The story is set in the early twenty-first century, with the action split between our own world and the mysterious world of Lyndesfarne. In Lyndesfarne, everyday technology from our own world simply fails to work, but a society every bit as sophisticated as our own is supported by pervasive magic.
Kevin and Tanji had been invited to the formal opening of the New Bridge between England and Lyndesfarne. They had arrived early, travelling by portal from Tanji's family home where they had once again been staying as guests of her Aunt and Uncle. They were both wearing the hooded capes - so popular in her world - against the windy autumn weather and frequent showers. Kevin was feeling smug that he had remembered, at the first attempt, the magical gesture which closed the fastening of his cloak.
As was conventional in Kevin's own world, the formal ribbon- cutting happened well after the bridge was actually completed, and indeed after it had been carrying traffic for some time. The new crossing had been closed to the normal commercial interchange for a short period, and the honoured guests had made their way from each side either on foot or in one of the horse-drawn wagons which were the only vehicles allowed on the bridge itself.
The brief ceremony passed off without incident although, because of his limited understanding of the language, Kevin could not make out very much of the speeches from various dignitaries and bigwigs. The ritual culminated in the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon which had been deliberatively placed in the exact centre of the bridge. This allowed a few photographers on the English side to use their cameras without them being disabled by the technology-suppressing properties of the barrier between the Two Worlds.
Kevin and his colleague Bret were the co-designers of the New Bridge or, more precisely, each were the designer of half of it. The half that was in the mundane world of engineering and technology had been Kevin's responsibility, while the section in the magical world of Lyndesfarne had been allocated to Bret.
The most challenging part of the whole design had been the short section where they now stood - the middle of the bridge where neither technology nor magic was entirely reliable. They had solved this thorny problem by a design where the central portion of the overall structure was largely unstressed, and then closing the gap with a laminate - alternating thin layers of steel-reinforced concrete and the magically enhanced "construction stone" favoured in Lyndesfarne.
Kevin thought ruefully that pictures of this bridge would not be appearing in the usual trade publications, unlike his previous commission, a part-floating bridge in New Zealand which had attracted a certain amount of attention from the specialist press. The low-key and intricate web of secrecy that surrounded what was now the sole remaining crossing to the Other World meant that none of his professional colleagues would ever hear about the interesting technical problems they had had to solve.
Kevin recognised a few of the people in attendance at the ceremony. He had spotted Bret's blond ponytail earlier and, once the formal part of the proceedings had been completed, he and Tanji strolled over to where Bret was standing.
Bret was in his male guise, the one he had adopted for much of the period during the New Bridge's design and construction. Actually biologically female, Bret was a rare and talented shapeshifter capable of donning a - admittedly slightly boyish - male appearance. He claimed that this disguise was helpful in dealing with people from Kevin's world, where the remnants of sexist attitudes would otherwise had made some things more difficult.
Tanji had eschewed any change of form today and looked, in Kevin's extremely biased opinion, radiant. Her blonde hair was drawn up into a clasp at the back of her head, which effectively highlighted the slightly elfin cast to her features - the high cheekbones and the suggestion of pointed ears - that were, Kevin knew, so characteristic of natives to the world of Lyndesfarne.
Bret was present with his husband Eosin who, Kevin had been given to understand, had some role in the maintenance and enhancement of the magical sprites in the barrier which enforced - mostly - the separation of the Two Worlds. The sprites disrupted technological artefacts - everything from plastic biros to mobile phones - and Kevin had long since learned to leave almost everything behind when he visited. Other sprites disabled magical items, so that the magical amulets and brooches used in Lyndesfarne for so many purposes became just chunky jewellery.
Bret's mother was also in attendance, but as an ordinary member of the crowd. Her role as the Ferryman - a semi-mythical figure with a secret and central role within the Board of Control - was not publicly known. She gave every appearance of a proud mother embracing her son's achievement, although Kevin was aware of the steely glint in her eye that belied her otherwise matronly appearance.
Bret smiled as Kevin approached and shook his hand, each grasping the other man's upper arm in an expression of warmth and
respect. Bret then kissed Tanji on the cheek, bending slightly to embrace her more petite form.
Kevin had not seen Bret for some time, indeed, only on one occasion since the intervention - by the Ferryman herself - which had rescued Kevin from an uncertain future and quite possibly a mindwipe.
"Good to see you both. Been keeping well?" Bret enquired solicitously.
"Very well," Kevin replied, "If a bit busy."
Having left the firm of architects who had employed him while the New Bridge was being designed, Kevin had been working hard at establishing an independent consultancy, as well as spending a lot of time with Tanji. Sometimes he felt he had known her for ever, even though in reality it was only a few months.
"Oh, it's not been all work," Tanji chided, smiling naughtily up at Kevin.
Kevin could feel himself reddening slightly, but recovered quickly.
"Oh, we've been travelling widely, too."
The three people chatted for a few minutes, exchanging news and enquiring after mutual acquaintances.
"Look, I'd better go and circulate some more," Bret said finally, looking around at the gathering of the great and the good, "See you at the party?"
"Don't worry," Kevin replied, grinning in response, "We'll be there."