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While a young medical student at Edinburgh Arthur Conan Doyle famously studied under the remarkable Dr Joseph Bell, who was a pioneer in criminal investigation. The Night Calls chronicles their most frightening and disturbing case - the encounter with the man who was later presented in expurgated form as Moriarty. Beginning with a series of bizarre and outlandish assaults on women in the brothels of Edinburgh, the story moves to the medical facility of the city's university, which is itself being disrupted by the violent struggle for women's educational rights. Here Doyle meets a fellow student, young Elizabeth Scott, who has many enemies, among them a crazed misogynist student called Crawford and the smiling hypocritical patron of the university, Henry Carlisle. Yet slowly Bell begins to realise that the increasingly freakish crimes they are investigating reflect an entirely new and terrifying kind of criminal who is not susceptible to the old methods. The Night Calls takes them from the evil heart of old Edinburgh into what Bell calls their 'fight against the future' and to London itself, where Doyle again faces his nemesis with terrifying results -
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Inspired by the discovery that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended medical school with one of the 19th century's most notorious serial killers, David Pirie's The Night Calls reels out a grim but engrossing tale that suggests a model for Holmes' foremost adversary, Professor James Moriarty.
A series of bizarre assaults on women in the brothels of 1878 Edinburgh draws the attention of Dr Joseph Bell, a surgeon, charismatic teacher and forensic expert who periodically applies his deductive skills to solving crimes. Together with a young Conan Doyle, his "trusted clerk and pupil," Bell follows the trail of an elusive attacker who leads them on crepuscular chases through gloomy Victorian streets and to a blood-filled room where the puzzle of his motive becomes deeper. However, Conan Doyle is occupied with other matters, as well. He's fast developing a fondness for fellow student Elsbeth Scott, whose interest in promoting educational rights for women has made her many enemies, and whose sister, the wife of a hypocritical philanthropist, grows sicker by the day--either as a result of disease or deviousness. The future author is disturbed, too, by his father's deteriorating mental condition. Assisting Bell offers Conan Doyle some release from worry--at least until their controlling quarry becomes a threat to Miss Scott. Pirie's plot only gains more perplexity and darkness as its action shifts to London, forcing the logical Bell and his impetuous amanuensis to contend with opium fiends, disappearing corpses, a severed head with "horrifying power," and continuing taunts by a murderer who believes that "evil is freedom."
While British author Pirie's previous Bell-Conan Doyle novel, The Patient's Eyes, was more of a whodunit, liberally employing Sherlockian investigative techniques, the rather more smoothly constructed The Night Calls concentrates equally on drama and the morally incongruent psychology of its principal players. This novel blends fact with fiction in a mesmerizing tale that boasts a frightening, cliffhanger ending. --J Kingston Pierce, Amazon.comReview:
"A convincing Victorian world of eerie moors and fearless detectives, impenetrable ciphers and strange hooded assassins..." (Times Literary Supplement)
"A gripping narrative which never lapses into anachronistically modern language or attitudes. This is a breath of fresh air in the crime genre - a fascinating read" (Good Book Guide)
"An intellectual treat and a downright guilty pleasure" (Washington Post)
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