The Bedlam Detective

The Bedlam Detective

Title:  The Bedlam Detective
Author: Stephen Gallagher
Publisher:  Broadway
Publication Date:  2012
ISBN:  978-0-307-40665-1

Book Summary:
When Sir Owain Lancaster returned from a scientific expedition through the Amazon, only he and one other member of his party emerged from the jungle.  Delirious and severely weakened, Sir Owain raged about a beast that tore apart all the members of his party, including his wife and son.  Upon his return from England, he retired to the country, living only with his physician, Dr. Sibley.  Still haunted by the memories of his disastrous jungle adventure, he claims that the beast has followed him home to Edwardian England.

Sebastian Becker has been sent by the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy to determine Sir Owain’s sanity and whether he is able to care for himself and his property.  As a wealthy industrialist, Sir Owain’s property and assets are immense.  Before he can make it to Sir Owain’s estate, Sebastian is side-tracked into helping search for two lost girls on the moor.  When their bodies are discovered, Detective Sergeant Stephen Reed enlists Sebastian’s insight and knowledge.  As a former Pinkerton detective and policeman, violent death is nothing new to Sebastian.

The case bears an uncanny resemblance to another crime committed years prior.  Although the two girls escaped, their lives were forever changed.  Elizabeth has moved away and Grace became a hermit, living a life of isolation under her father’s tyrannical rule.  Neither girl will speak about the incident, but as evidence reveals the possibility of Sir Owain’s involvement, Sebastian must press for answers.

Juggling this case with his own challenging home-life, Sebastian tries to find answers to both solve the case and aid his family to a better situation.  It becomes apparent that Sir Owain is truly hunted by monsters, and Sebastian must determine if those monsters are on his estate or in his mind.

Book Commentary:
What a great psychological, period thriller!!  I had randomly read about this book and put in on my “to read” list.  I finally picked it out of the stack and I was hooked.  I did a bit of research and Stephen Gallagher is quite the well-known novelist and screenwriter.  I am always amazed at finding “new to me” books that are so well-known by others.  Gallagher’s style is horror, which I admit is usually not my thing but I didn’t find it scary or stomach-churning, but rather very engaging.

The Bedlam Detective reads like a psychological thriller and although there are hints of horror, they are very grounded in reality.  I really, really liked this book.  It was a page-turner with lots of twists.  Gallagher jumps between the murder investigation to Becker’s home-life to the accounts of Sir Owain’s travels in the Amazon.  At first, I thought all this jumping around would be confusing, but it really added to the suspense and blended the story-line.

Stephen Becker is a very likable and yet haunted character.  Gallagher wrote a previous book about Becker called The Kingdom of Bones.  You know how I hate it when I read a series out of order, but the description of this other book doesn’t seem to be a necessary precursor to The Bedlam Detective.  I will definitely be checking it out.  The Bedlam Detective hints that there is another story behind why Becker and his family leave America and the Pinkerton Agency to return to England, and I hope to find that story in past or future Gallagher books.  I’ll keep you posted!

Who might like this book:
If you enjoy a good period piece with psychological elements, make sure to check this one out.  I had flashes of Jack-the-Ripper, although not as many victims and in a more rural setting.  The concept of sanity checks for those of wealth and property was a really unique twist.  Gallagher sets up so many more potential stories with the novel; I will definitely seek out more by him.

I set this book on my husband’s nightstand; we’ll see what he thinks.

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