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The Bedlam Detective: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 7, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307406644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307406644
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Lesley TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2012
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.
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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.
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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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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.
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