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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Questions of insanity and murder.
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...
Published on February 9, 2012 by J. Lesley

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good characters, unsatisfying mystery
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...
Published on June 13, 2012 by N. Boer


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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Questions of insanity and murder., February 9, 2012
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.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Inwardly I live in fear.", February 7, 2012
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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good characters, unsatisfying mystery, June 13, 2012
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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.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction at its best, February 15, 2012
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.
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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
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why all of the Hype?, April 25, 2013
I agree with some othe 3 star reviews of this book. It started off as a promising read but then continually slowed down as the pages were turned. The characters were not that well drawn and seemed rather "flat". I don't recall much of a physical description of Sebastian Becker at all, so it was hard to picture his appearance. Perhaps he is given more attention in Gallagher's previous book. I think there was a good story here somewhere, but the author doesn't really make you care all that much about the characters or the situations they find themselves in. If Gallagher is trying to emulate some of the crime writing of the early twentieth century, he has certianly done so in the dry, indifferent tale that I found between these covers. Sherlock Holmes was much more interesting...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit unorthodox, February 16, 2013
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I chose three stars because at first it was slow getting my interest. That is mainly also what I didn't like about it. I liked how it ended, and I was surprised of the ending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ALMOST THERE Prequal: THE KINGDOM OF BONES, May 10, 2012
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TheWhistler (Fergus, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A comfortable read, unfortunately I discovered the villan several chapters before the revelation scene. I could see this as a television series, especially since the author is a screenwriter, and even if only for six episodes.

Unfortunately since it was the first in a proposed series when it came to a conclusion regarding characters we are left hanging. I would read a sequel if only for that reason alone, to discover what happened to the character.

Still in the squeal it would be nice if the author didn't give so many clues all at the one time.

If this made an impression one might want to read the prequal "The Kingdom of Bones" that starts in the United States.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting Edwardian Era mystery, April 8, 2013
The Bedlam Detective
Stephen Gallagher
Broadway/Crown, Feb 5 2013, $15.99
ISBN: 9780307406651

In 1912 logically he knows he could have done nothing to prevent the lynching he witnessed in America. However unable to move on from that troubling incident Sebastian Becker quit Pinkerton to return home to London; accompanied by his wife Elisabeth, their disturbed genius son Robert and his unmarried sister-in-law. He works for the Ministry of Lunacy as a special investigator.

His current assignment is to determine the sanity of Sir Owain Lancaster who recently came home from the Amazon where his family and team died in what the man said in his book "The Empire of Beasts" was an attack by monsters who followed him to England to finish the job. Becker arrives by a delayed train due to a wax misconception in Arnmouth while a hunt for two missing girls occurs. When their mutilated bodies are found, most locals including Detective Stephen Reed believe insane Sir Owain killed the children; while the accused insists his Amazonian beasts murdered them. Becker joins the inquiry.

The Bedlam Detective is an exciting Edwardian Era mystery that focuses on a small village where denial is the norm as the locals prefer either Sir Oswain to be insane or an outsider committed the atrocities. The keys to this strong historical are the cast including the title character, his family and the villagers are fully developed and a powerful look at mental health in 1905 as psychopathic beasts roam freely amidst the populace.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Reader's Musings ..., March 30, 2013
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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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