Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: The Bedlam Detective

Summary: From a basement office in London’s notorious Bethlehem Hospital, Sebastian Becker investigates wealthy eccentrics whose dubious mental health may render them unable to manage their own affairs. His interview with rich landowner Sir Owain Lancaster, whose sanity has been in question since a disastrous scientific adventure in the Amazon killed his family and colleagues, coincides with the disappearance of two young local girls. When the children are found slain, Lancaster claims that the same dark forces that devastated his family have followed him home. It is not the first time that children have come to harm in his rural countryside town, though few are willing to speak of incidents from the past. Becker must determine whether this mad nobleman is insane and a murderer, or if some even more sinister agency is at work.

Struggling on his small salary, and with unexpected help from a son who needs special care, Becker and his wife make sacrifices so Becker can stay on the case after an innocent man is convicted of the crime. The answers he seeks may be found with the assistance of the local investigator and a young suffragette who fled Arnmouth, but couldn’t flee the horrors she encountered there. 

From dank asylums to the lush and treacherous Amazon, through the makeshift studios of the early film industry and a traveling fair of freaks and illusions, Sebastian Becker’s search for answers brings him face to face with madmen and monsters, both imagined and real. Confronting immense danger in his hunt for the truth, he will explore murder, tragedy, and the tempestuous depths of his own mind. -- Crown

Prior to reading THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE, I wasn't familiar with author Stephen Gallagher, but you better be sure that he now has my attention.  He is a screenwriter, director and author of fourteen novels; and I was very impressed with his latest one. THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE wasn't a typical mystery read for me, but I am certainly glad that I picked it up. I thought it was a terrific book, and a great example of what a historical mystery should be.

One of my favorite things about THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE was the writing. In my opinion, this novel was very well written. There were times when I re-read sections because the prose just stood out to me. I also thought Mr. Gallagher did a great job in bringing the setting to life; and by that, I mean the small English town as well as London and the Amazon. I thought the amount of details was perfect and they gave me enough information to appreciate the time period without getting bogged down. Finally, I loved the pacing of this book. The story moved back and forth between the past and present almost effortlessly, and I thought the story unfolded in such a way that it made me very excited to discover the resolution to the mystery.

Another great aspect of THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE was the mystery itself. I found the mystery of who killed the two young girls to be incredibly intriguing, and I appreciated that the story evolved into a psychological suspense one as much as a traditional whodunit. The protagonist Sebastian Becker was originally visiting the small English town to determine whether Sir Owain was of sound mind when the murders took place. Quite naturally, Sir Owain became a suspect and I appreciated seeing how Becker not only had to determine if Owain was mad, but also if he were involved in the crimes.

I was also extremely impressed with how the novel concluded. I've already mentioned that I couldn't put down this book, and the author did a wonderful job of keeping me riveted to the story. As the story reached its climax, I was very surprised by the turn of events and the situation that Becker found himself in. I thought the ending had a few nice twists and turns; and I guess I was surprised by the culprit, but in some strange way, it all made sense.

There are quite a few highlights from THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE from the writing, to the mystery, to the surprise twist at the end. All were truly so well done; however, I think I most appreciated the character development. Sebastian Becker was just a great character, and I thought the author did a wonderful job in making him someone that I truly cared about. At its heart, this novel was a mystery, but it was most definitely a literary mystery. There was much about Sebastian's family life, especially his relationship with his wife and son, that made this novel so much deeper than a typical mystery. In fact, I look forward to seeing more of Sebastian in future novels.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE. If you are a fan of literary or historical mysteries, then you won't want to miss this novel.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. 


bermudaonion said...

Wow, it sounds like this is an excellent mystery!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love books that I can't put down! especially mysteries!

Beth Hoffman said...

I love a good mystery and this sounds great. Adding it to my list for certain! Terrific review, Julie!

Carol said...

I love historical mysteries. I'm adding this to my list of books I need to read.