Books come and go, and mysteries are prolific in the fiction category—but some stand out above the others. There’s nothing quite like a suspenseful tale well told.
Stephen Gallagher’s The Bedlam Detective is his second book to feature Sebastian Becker (after The Kingdom of Bones), an investigator for the Crown who is charged with discovering who among the affluent population may be deemed insane and therefore unable to manage their own affairs. It is 1912 in England, and Becker arrives in the village of Arnmouth to visit Sir Owain Lancaster’s estate and determine whether the once-rich landowner may be responsible for the murder of two young girls who were found dead on his estate grounds.
Sir Owain is the number-one suspect, possibly guilty of both madness and murder. His personal journals tell a creepy tale that winds throughout the story, describing dragons and monsters that he claims pursued him during an adventure into the Amazon some years back, when nearly everyone in his party was murdered, including his own wife and son. He still sees beasts no one else can see and says they have committed the recent murders.
For those who love a tale of phantoms, this engrossing book has it all. One can sense terror hiding in a derelict country cottage in Arnmouth or lurking on the mist-shrouded streets of London. Each character is vividly drawn here, including Evangeline, an energetic young suffragette, and her childhood friend, Lucy. Both girls were past victims of the mysterious killer, who left them both for dead—although they are still very much alive. Becker, too, is beset by demons of his own. He must survive a personal tragedy that leaves him to cope with straitened financial circumstances as well as the future of his troubled but brilliant young son.
Throughout The Bedlam Detective, sanity and madness are intertwined and the line between truth and fantasy is paper-thin. Near the book’s end, readers are treated to a hair-raising hallucinatory trip in which butterfly specimens come alive in glass cases; the eyes of a stone carving move; and ghosts speak. Filled with precise yet haunting prose, The Bedlam Detective will shock and sustain readers, keeping them on the edge of their seats.