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The Bedlam Detective: A Novel [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Stephen Gallagher
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Feb. 7 2012
Madmen see monsters – and monsters hide in plain sight
 
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. 

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Review

"A thriller, but with a literary depth unusual in the genre, and fascinating in the complexity of its construct. Gallagher’s prose is swift, sure, and occasionally darkly comedic…Three words of advice: read this book.” —Historical Novel Society, Editors' Choice

“Masterful whodunit…Gallagher’s superior storytelling talents bode well for future adventures starring the well-rounded Becker.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Monsters, actual and metaphorical, are at the heart of this superbly crafted thriller....Gallagher loves character development but respects plotting enough to give it full measure. The result is that rare beast, a literary page-turner." –Kirkus, starred review

“The story moves easily between present and past events, leading to a conclusion that is as perfectly logical as it is surprising…Intricately drawn characters, carefully shaded depictions of events and situations, and an excellent sense of pacing…This is a real page-turner, and fans will hope to see more of Sebastian Becker in the future. It may also attract readers who enjoy historical thrillers in the Caleb Carr tradition.” –Library Journal

“Gallagher's great character development and clever plotting has created a great result: A rare literary masterpiece for the lovers of historical crime fiction.” -MysteryTribune.com

“Gallagher’s latest is a great thriller/mystery with a unique character premise. I would love to see this developed into a series.” –Becky Lejeune, BookBitch.com

“Riveting…highly recommended.” –Charles DeLint, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Praise for Steven Gallagher:
“Perhaps the finest contemporary British thriller writer.” –GQ
“Stephen Gallagher shows the occult mystery in its best light.” –New York Times Book Review
“Gallagher has quietly become Britain's finest popular novelist, working a dark seam between horror and the psychological thriller.” –Arena
“The finest British writer of bestselling popular fiction since le Carre... Gallagher, like le Carre, is a novelist whose themes seem to reflect something of the essence of our times, whose skill lies in embedding those themes in accessible plots.” –The Independent, London
"A master of pace and suspense, Gallagher has the dark, neon-splashed imagination of a true original." –Glasgow Evening Times
"Gallagher is a master of abnormal psychology and he just gets better and better." –Mystery Scene
“If thriller-reading were a sin, Stephen Gallagher would be responsible for my ultimate damnation.” –Dean R. Koontz

About the Author

STEPHEN GALLAGHER is a novelist, screenwriter, and director, the author of fourteen novels, including Nightmare, with Angel; The Kingdom of Bones; and Red, Red Robin. He is a British Fantasy Award and International Horror Guild Award winner, and a Stoker and World Fantasy Award nominee.

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4.0 out of 5 stars This Reader's Musings ... March 30 2013
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Madness, insane asylums and post-Victorian London; three things that have me salivating to read a book! The Bedlam Detective was no disappointment. A crossover between historical fiction and mystery, this book is more on the literary side to please those looking for historical/mystery rather than mystery/thriller. While I didn't find it a page turning read, I did find it an engrossing read with a clever mystery at its centre. Essentially a story of madness, as encountered in the post-Victorian era I found the plot fascinating along with the added element of the Victorian explorer I couldn't have been happier to find most of my favourite themes in one book. Well-written, an excellent period piece that mentions famous names but doesn't include any as main characters. I found myself doing a bit of research mid-read as I first heard mention of John Langdon Down, who turned out to be the physician Down's Syndrome is named after. While the serial killer aspect is not the main theme of the book it is kept afloat well and has a very surprising conclusion as all plot elements come to a head at the end of the book. A most enjoyable tale in one of my favourite genres. This is my first read by the author who has written many books; I will have to check out his backlist.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  69 reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Inwardly I live in fear." Feb. 7 2012
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Stephen Gallagher's "The Bedlam Detective" opens in September, 1912. Sebastian Becker, a former Pinkerton detective, has returned to his birthplace with his wife, Elisabeth, their troubled but brilliant son, Robert, and Elisabeth's unmarried sister. The Beckers lives in South London and Sebastian's title is now "special investigator for the Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy." Simon goes to Arnmouth, where his mission is to assess the mental state of Sir Owain Lancaster. It is rumored that Sir Owain lost his mind when his scientific expedition to the Amazon basin ended tragically. To complicate matters further, shortly after Sebastian arrives in town, the bodies of two murdered girls are found. Sebastian becomes involved in an investigation whose roots extend into the distant past.

In "The Bedlam Detective," the author captures the oppressive atmosphere of an English village, where everyone knows everyone else's business, yet it is still possible for someone to conceal sordid secrets. Who is the villain preying on defenseless young women? There are a number of suspects, including Sir Owain himself. Adding to the speculation is Sir Owain's book, "The Empire of Beasts," in which he recounts his horrendous experiences in South America. He claims that "rampaging creatures" tore apart his wife, child, and the other members of his party. Most individuals contemptuously dismiss Lancaster's narrative as the ravings of a madman.

The author's vividly depicted characters include Sir Owain, a Renaissance man who is clinging to his last vestiges of sanity; Owain's personal physician and surly chauffeur; two courageous women who were abused when they were younger but managed to survive; an inexperienced but earnest detective, Stephen Reed; and Sebastian's plucky wife and quirky son. This is a chilling and suspenseful historical mystery with intriguing details about medicine, women's rights, photography, and law in the early twentieth century. Gallagher suggests that there are indeed wild beasts loose in the world. Sadly, those of the two-legged variety are driven by their inner demons to commit monstrous deeds.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Questions of insanity and murder. Feb. 9 2012
By J. Lesley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A feeling of darkness hangs over this novel written by Stephen Gallagher. Insanity, murder, death, deception, all these things combine to make for a reading experience I will not soon forget. I really enjoy period novels and this one set in England in 1912 has just the atmosphere I look for. Almost every aspect of this novel is unusual and different. The main character is Sebastian Becker, a man whose career took an unfortunate turn because of an incident in America so now he and his family are in England living in what could be kindly referred to as reduced circumstances. Becker is now a special investigator for The Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy. A government department headed by Sir James Crichton-Browne, the Visitor in Lunacy is asked to send an investigator to interview persons reported to be mentally unstable and possibly mishandling the inheritance of the estates heirs, but more especially those revenues due the Crown. In this instance, Becker is in Arnmouth to speak with Sir Owain Lancaster of Arnside Hall. After being jeered from the stage during his presentation of the mysterious happenings during his trip down the Amazon River, Sir Owain is thought to be a madman who fights monsters in the night and who was responsible for the deaths of almost all who made the trip to South America with him. As soon as Becker arrives in the village he learns of the deaths of two young girls who Sir Owain describes as being "torn by beasts". It isn't long before Sebastian Becker sees a connection between the most recent murders and two other young girls who were left for dead years before after being cruelly treated.

I've never read a novel by this author before, but now I will certainly seek out other works by him. I thoroughly enjoyed the construction of the mystery aspects of this book and was actually surprised by the revelation of what had happened to the four young girls. The novel has that unsettled feeling of making the reader wonder whether Sir Owain is ever going to be able to convince Becker of his sanity. And what mystery surrounds the doctor who is Sir Owain's constant companion? The gradual unfolding of the evidence of the events which took place on the trip through the jungle is well crafted and revealed in such small portions that I was always wondering when the full results would be revealed. The novel is being billed as a literary thriller and I can say that I absolutely agree with that. The story is intense, moody, somber, and dark. Thankfully the author has given the reader just enough bright spots to keep us from being completely overwhelmed by the dark. Don't miss the final chapter, a Postscript, on a page by itself. I almost didn't see it. I wonder if there is any thought of this becoming a series? I would certainly be ready for the next adventure of Sebastian Becker, Special Investigator for The Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy.

I was so curious about this governmental agency, The Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy, that I did a bit of research and discovered that it did exist, it was not just created from the imagination of the author. What a wonderfully quirky discovery to make and turn into the basis of a novel. Well done, Mr Gallagher.

A complimentary copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good characters, unsatisfying mystery June 13 2012
By N. Boer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The period setting and excellent characterization of this novel makes it worth reading, although I was not satisfied with the way in which the mystery is resolved.

Gallagher puts a lot of energy into setting up his protagonist and describing his home circumstances, as well as creating deep backgrounds for the other characters, all of whom are interesting and believable. His evocation of the period setting is also very realistic, but not jarring in the sense of having it constantly pointed out to the reader, or endlessly described. He takes the reality of his own setting for granted, and thus convinces the reader without belaboring the point.

The novel clips along at a good pace until about 2/3rds of the way through, when it seems to lose its own plot. The solution is not reached through careful detective work (in fact, Becker has no interesting or particularly convincing methodology), and there are no real clues for the reader to follow, and thus no way of 'predicting' the solution, which I found rather frustrating. The last part is certainly filled with tension and keeps you flipping the pages, but doesn't really provide the reader with a satisfying intellectual challenge, just a series of cliff-hanger chapters.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction at its best Feb. 15 2012
By V. Cano - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Pay $12.99 - Wait until book comes to your library May 11 2012
By JayGreg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I won't go into the plot summary since others have described it in previous reviews. I found the first half of the book overstuffed with historic details while not having enough action scenes to keep the story flowing- in other words, it was Slow. The second half of the book was better paced and more interesting. I didn't see any typos.

The writing style was basic (neither lyrical nor purple). Dialogue was stilted and not spontaneous.

In summary, I spent $12.99 on a book that should be considered a run-of-the-mill paperback. I wish I could get a $7 refund and pay what the book was worth! Or better yet, I wish I could have borrowed this book from a friend or my local library!
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