The Detective and the Devil (Charles Horton 4) by Lloyd Shepherd
|The Detective and the Devil (Charles Horton 4) by Lloyd Shepherd|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Victorian Constable Charles Horton is back chasing a murderer similar to one he thought was dead. Mystery, intrigue, blood and the seamy side of the East India Company from a historical crime writer at his peak.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: April 2016|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK|
|External links: Author's website|
1855: Only a few years after the notorious Highways Murderer left his mark on London's docks, Constable Charles Horton is called back to the area. The disturbing murder of a clerk and his family bears the trademark of the serial killer but Horton's sure he's already dead; Horton saw him die. At this point the hunt for a devil incarnate begins, taking Horton and his wife Abigail to the other side of the world and the darker side of an untouchable Victorian institution: The East India Company.
Lloyd Shepherd brings the wonderful Horton out for a fourth time and things have certainly moved on since last we met in Savage Magic (Each story works as a stand-alone as well as a chronologically read series by the way.) It's been a while since his wife Abigail came home from the madhouse, having escaped its unorthodox methods. However she hasn't forgotten the living hell and now spends any spare time nursing in Bronte House, a similar but hopefully more humane establishment in Hackney.
Abigail isn't side-lined in this story at all though. Between the excitement and suspense of the case, it's through Abigail that Lloyd brings a mental health sub-plot filled with modern resonance. Abigail tries to suppress the desire to keep demonstrating that she's fully recovered as Charles tries to suppress his search for proof that she's not on the verge of relapse. This makes for some marital egg shell walking that's not precisely alien to those in a similar position today.
Meanwhile, back with the Victorians… The good constable certainly has other things to distract him from looking for stress fractures in his wife's psyche. He's soon uncovering some awful truths about the most powerful trading operation the Victorian world knows. Once again he hopes to be able to depend on local magistrate Herriott as an ally but not all is plain sailing there either. Horton's professional partner and ailing friend seems to be on the way down leaving Magistrate Markland on the ascendancy which isn't the ideal situation (unless you're us of course). To say that Markland and Horton aren't a partnership made in heaven is an understatement!
Talking of partnerships, Horton also comes across some factual names that we too would recognise. I found the eccentric Charles Lamb (of eventual Shakespeare translation fame) particularly interesting. The thing that surprised me was how small a world the Victorian literary arena seems to have been, evidenced by Lamb reeling off lists of his particular friends who are deemed literary greats today. Indeed, just another example of Lloyd's ability to slide research into an action packed story without allowing our pulses to slow down.
As the adventure enticingly sandwiches itself between chapters taking us back to 1588 and Elizabeth I's spy/alchemist/polymath John Dee, a picture gradually emerges. Indeed, we definitely know we're in the safe hands of an exemplary story teller. Is Horton in safe hands too? That's the grimy, grisly joy of not being able to guess where the twists are going to take us. We're at the mercy of Lloyd Shepherd's imagination and, for the one, engrossing sitting it took me to read the novel, there was nowhere else I'd rather be.
(I'd like to thank Simon & Schuster UK for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you haven't read Charles Horton's last outing, Savage Magic yet, treat yourself. If you're already a fan and are looking for further grisly tales from the crime annals of the 19th century, we also recommend The Convictions of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes, based on a true story.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Detective and the Devil (Charles Horton 4) by Lloyd Shepherd at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Detective and the Devil (Charles Horton 4) by Lloyd Shepherd at Amazon.com.
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