Screenwriter and novelist
Monsters, actual and metaphorical, are at the heart of this superbly crafted thriller.
Gallagher has been called a horror writer, a fantasy writer, a non-fantasy writer, a writer for big screens and smaller ones, a writer whose considerable talent has enabled him to slip in and out of genres precisely as if those tidy little boxes didn't exist—as indeed they don't for his character-driven books. In this one, Sebastian Becker (The Kingdom of Bones, 2007, etc.), his fast-track career abruptly derailed, contemplates an uncertain future. Now that the Pinkertons have sent him packing, he faces 1912 back in his native England, employed as the special investigator to the Masters of Lunacy. Englishmen of property deemed too loopy to look after anyone's property face Bedlams of one sort or another, their property removed from their care. It's up to Sir James Crichton-Browne, acting for His Majesty's Government, to render judgments informed by evidence his special investigator Sebastian provides. The job pays poorly but is nuanced enough to be interesting. And it gets even more so when Sebastian meets Sir Owain Lancaster, a scientist who's been widely respected until he blames the failure of his lavish Amazonian expedition on a series of attacks by horrific monsters only he can see. No longer respected but still exceedingly rich, he becomes grist for Sebastian's mill. Is Sir Owain really crazy? Or, much worse, is he himself a monster?
Gallagher loves character development but respects plotting enough to give it full measure. The result is that rare beast, a literary page-turner.
Sebastian Becker, the former Pinkerton detective first met in Stephen Gallagher's 19th-century occult thriller The Kingdom of Bones, returns in THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE (Crown, $25) as a special investigator for a British group called the Masters of Lunacy, whose macabre brief is to determine whether gentlemen of substance are mentally fit to handle their estates. Becker's employers are “lawyers and parasites with no other interest than to get control of a man's fortune,” according to Sir Owain Lancaster, who wrote a book blaming primordial beasts for annihilating every living soul on an expedition he led into the Amazon. Sir Owain has a dilemma: stand by his book and be branded a lunatic or repudiate his claim and be censured as a fraud. Becker is also in pursuit of another beast, the one who raped and murdered two little girls, and he's convinced Sir Owain is that fiend.
Gallagher's detective is a man of fine character and strong principles, but he's upstaged by the monsters he pursues. Watching Becker track down a pedophile is gratifying, but it can't beat the sight of 20 overburdened boats hurtling through white-water rapids or Sir Owain, armed to the teeth and blasting away at giant serpents only he can see.
New York Times.
Set in England in 1912, this masterful whodunit from Gallagher (Red, Red Robin) introduces Sebastian Becker, a former policeman and Pinkerton agent who now works as the special investigator to the Masters of Lunacy, looking into cases involving any “man of property” whose sanity is under question. His latest assignment takes him to the small town of Arnmouth to determine whether Sir Owain Lancaster has gone around the bend. Lancaster returned from a disastrous trip to the Amazon, which claimed the life of his wife and son, only to attribute the catastrophe to mysterious animals straight out of Doyle's The Lost World. Lancaster believes that the creatures that plagued him in South America have followed him home, and are responsible for the deaths of two young girls, a theory supported by a local legend of a beast of the moor. Gallagher's superior storytelling talents bode well for future adventures starring the well-rounded Becker.
Publishers' Weekly Starred Review.
For a glimpse into the background of the novel, read My Lost Worlds.