- Series: Sebastian Becker
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Subterranean; Deluxe Hardcover edition (September 30, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596067799
- ISBN-13: 978-1596067790
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,230,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Authentic William James (Sebastian Becker) Hardcover – September 30, 2016
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From the Inside Flap
Sebastian Beckers position as Special Investigator for the British Crown requires a subtle touch: gathering evidence that determines whether or not someone is a Chancery Lunaticafflicted with madness making them unfit to manage their fortuneswithout tipping the hand of those whose resources often make them above the law. In the aftermath of a fiery tragedy that leaves dozens dead and Englands leaders maneuvering for an answer to stave off political ramifications, former police detective Becker is called upon to utilize his intimacy with the insane, and familiarity with working in the shadows. Tasked with evaluating the sanity of the confessed arsonistWild West Showman The Authentic William JamesBecker travels from the shores of Sussex to the film studios of Hollywood. Delving into the circus world to unravel the mystery of a man who admits guilt and flees will pit Beckers appointed role to do his countrys bidding against his compassion to do what is right for a family. Stephen Gallagher is the author of "Out of His Mind," the winner of the British Fantasy award. His work has been adapted to many on-screen treatments, and he has written for Doctor Who and Crusoe. In his third Sebastian Becker novel, Gallagher once again shows his ability to create a suspenseful thriller through the wry voice of his protagonist.
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The agency’s motivation for assigning Becker to investigate a suspicious fire in a theater on a seaside pier that killed numerous people seems thin at best (a minor German prince, attending the theater for possibly scandalous personal reasons, was among the dead), but once Becker becomes involved, that aspect is not really of much concern to him or to us. He soon becomes convinced that the man suspected of setting the fire, the former star of a Wild West show (a type of entertainment that the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody had made very popular in Britain) named William James, is innocent. When James escapes from captivity (and threatened lynching) and flees to the United States, Becker follows him; his employers want James brought back to “justice,” but Becker’s own motivation is primarily to learn the true story of the tragic event and James’s role in it.
The mystery is interesting and the pace is steady, but the book’s chief value is in its characters—both those involved in the James story and those in Becker’s own life. In addition to Becker himself, who is complex and well developed, the latter group includes Frances, his late wife’s sister, who has been acting as housekeeper for him and his adult autistic son. He is frustratingly blind to both her devotion and her intelligence, creating a tension that engaged me as much as James’s problems.
Another interesting aspect of the book, although the author does not emphasize it, is the period in which it is set: an uneasy, transitional time in which the old-fashioned comforts of the nineteenth century are just starting to give way to the speeded-up technology of the twentieth. Both automobiles and horses can be seen on the streets, for instance, and silent movies are beginning to be churned out in quantity in California, as Becker learns when his pursuit of James leads him to that environment. “War is in the air,” but the actual devastation of World War I is yet to come: eventually dismissing the matter of the German princeling who died in the theater fire, the author notes with wonderful irony, “The suggestion that a European conflict might be started by the death of a minor royal in a foreign country now seemed, in retrospect, to be somewhat improbable.” Yeah, right….
So many things to like - without giving away the plot lines - I had no idea that Wild West shows were so popular in England! And Gallagher - through research and his own personal experience - knows show business really well - it showed in Kingdom of Bones and it's even more on display in this book
Really like how his Becker's sister-in-law, Frances, comes into her own in this book -
Two really great parts of this novel made it for me - a line about what fathers will do for their daughters, and a plot twist that I did not see coming and was exceptional
The book end on a happy note, but in 1914 with clouds of the Great War on the horizon, just months away - and liking Becker and his family so much, my heart ached at the end of this book for the potential tragedy to come
I’m just so happy.
Climbing into a new adventure featuring the Visitor’s man in Lunacy, Sebastian Becker, is like climbing into a warm bath with, well...a good book. A glass of wine and a good book. A glass of wine and a great book, actually.
I mean, it’s an occasion.
Third in the series, after Kingdom of Bones and The Bedlam Detective, The Authentic William James features the return of Becker and the return of Gallagher’s signature blend of brawny and erudite plotting, breathless tension, and a trademark attention to historical detail worthy of Erik Larson.
Becker is no esoteric, plummy gentleman sleuth. He is an everyman of quiet, stoical middle class English character and cool – sometimes resigned – professional dedication. He has, in the course of three novels, hunted fugitives across oceans and benighted moors, through brothels and fairgrounds, offering up rare glimpses of troubled lives in the shadows and soot begrimed parlours and public houses of Edwardian era England and America in that fleeting period between the fin de siècle and the first motorized war.
This is what I particularly love – and have come to expect – from a Sebastian Becker novel (and its author): tight, thrilling pacing, fresh insight into the most painfully intimate details of life in a fascinating historical period, cracking suspense, complex motives, and poignant glimpses into the dimly lit spaces of the human heart, its vices, and its vulnerabilities. All framed and supported by impeccable historical research.
And - just in case we’d forgotten that there are still authors out there who are actually worthy of being called “writers” - a strong, sure narrative voice and a deft mastery of the literary art. Gallagher not only tells a damn good story, but he tells it exceedingly well.
Every one of the Sebastian Becker novels is a happy confluence of strengths in both story and literary style. It treats me to the best kind of ride – one with the action of a roller-coaster and the excitement and wonder of a world tour. When it’s done, I’m never ready to call it quits, but I come away from the experience excited and thoughtful, having travelled, and having gained knowledge and insights I never saw coming.
Not sure what else I can say. Plenty, but I’d risk getting carried away and spoiling the surprises in this labyrinthine journey of raw passions, shocking twists, and dark, dark turns.
Do read all three novels.
Preferably in the bath.