Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Bedlam Detective by Stephen Gallagher

The author of "The Kingdom of Bones" returns with a beautifully written literary thriller featuring madmen who see monsters and monsters who hide in plain sight--a powerful story of class, family, and insanity.

Historical fictions taking place in the Victorian era are one my favorite kinds of books, and this one certainly did not disappoint. It is rich with period detail and with the je ne sais quoi that makes past ages seem so appealing.

Sebastian Becker, the protagonist, is an interesting man. He carries the whole book on his shoulders effortlessly, guiding the reader on through the different chapters without ever becoming dull or predictable. He comes through as a real person, with his issues, but always maintaining the “hero” status. It was fascinating to follow him into the world of madness in the Victorian era, with all its grotesquerie and violence. From the first chapter, when he is called by a train conductor to have him investigate a pair of conjoined twins in formaldehyde, we know that this is one dark story. And we are not misled. Murders, rapes, poison darts and a sinister old man living in a dilapidated estate are enough to keep any lover of mysteries thoroughly entertained.

The writing is beautiful. There are some phrases which left me smiling, just at the way the words are shaped into meaning. I truly enjoyed submerging myself in this era, and in this book in particular, and I’ll definitely pick up some more of this author’s works. I highly recommend this book.

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