From the author of the acclaimed historical thriller Savage Magic comes The Detective and the Devil, a riveting tale of villainy, alchemy and murder….
London 1815: Constable Charles Horton of the River Police is called to investigate the brutal murder of a clerk and his family in London’s East End. Horton’s investigation draws him into the secretive world of the East India Company, which will stop at nothing to protect the secrets of its vast empire.
What is the Company hiding, and why are its employees disappearing – particularly those linked to the small island of St Helena? The trail takes Horton and his wife Abigail from the steps of John Dee’s house in Mortlake to the lonely South Atlantic, on the heels of a killer who seems to be the very Devil.
Some of the nice things people have said about The Detective and the Devil.
British Novels I Most Enjoyed This Year: The Detective and the Devil, by Lloyd Shepherd, in which tenacious Constable Charles Horton of London’s River Police is tasked, in 1815, with investigating horrific bloodshed linked to the powerful, secretive East India Company.
Lloyd Shepherd writes about this harsh world in a lucid and entirely believable way, helped by a sensibility for the grime and struggle of life in the horse drawn world. He cleverly mixes in allusions to notorious figures and events of the the time, these include the exile of Napoleon and the Ratcliffe Highway murders, the outrage than gave Britain a taste for true crime that endures today.
This is historical crime fiction at its very best; a book that thrills and excites its readers by taking them into a world that is at once vastly different from and strangely similar to our own.
Shepherd is adept at creating wholly believable descriptions of 19th century London and its environs, although his descriptions of St Helena felt flimsy and less sure-footed. In Horton and his wife he has created a fine double act of dabbling detectives, but when the story strays away from hard won facts and into the fanciful it lost its narrative thread.
There’s a neat juxtaposition between real life characters and happenings and that succulent twist of artistic licence that gives the tale added spice, but on occasion it stretches a little too far for someone who prefers their reading on the more down-to-earth side. The Detective and the Devil is a book that will appeal to lovers of historical crime fiction who are not adverse to a side order of the supernatural.
As the adventure enticingly sandwiches itself between chapters taking us back to 1588 and Elizabeth I’s spy/alchemist/polymath John Dee, a picture gradually emerges. Indeed, we definitely know we’re in the safe hands of an exemplary story teller. Is Horton in safe hands too? That’s the grimy, grisly joy of not being able to guess where the twists are going to take us. We’re at the mercy of Lloyd Shepherd’s imagination and, for the one, engrossing sitting it took me to read the novel, there was nowhere else I’d rather be.