London, 1852: the world's capital city of crime; a city where murder and hangings are public entertainment, where reporters and balladeers vie with one another to be first to the next grisly, exclusive revelation. Among the panoply of killers awaiting execution is Chokee Bill, whose stranglings have set the capital abuzz. One of the balladeers, Henry Owler, is determined to extract a true confession from the killer. However, Chokee Bill claims he is innocent and that the real Fiend is still on the loose. Owler, enlists the help of one of London's leading investigative journalists, Edmund Whitty of the Falcon, to help him to discover the real murderer before he strikes again. But fate has some other twists in store. The killer is closer than either one expects, close enough to touch in the fog bound streets. Is he a wraith of the imagination? Or is he the nightmare the public have dreamed and now made all too real? Is he The Fiend in Human Form?
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Journalist Edmund Whitty, the dissolute protagonist in John MacLachlan Gray's gloomily atmospheric mystery, The Fiend in Human, knows how to feed the public's appetite for lurid sensationalism. His latest success is Chokee Bill, "The Fiend in Human Form," a diabolical caricature of the serial strangler who's been attacking "women of low character" in 1852 London, ending their lives with white silk scarves. However, the arrest of coiner William Ryan for these crimes threatens to cool demand for Whitty's work--and thus deprive him of the income he needs for lodging, gin, and opium. So when he's approached by Henry Owler, an impoverished but proud balladeer, who hopes to ring a "last confession" from Ryan before his hanging, Whitty sees the chance again to best his competitors. What he doesn't expect, though, is for the stranglings to continue, raising doubts about Ryan's guilt and leading him--in the interests of his own pocketbook, of course--to turn detective in search of the factual fiend.
Gray, a Canadian columnist and playwright, captures Victorian London in the breadth of its grandeur and decay, shining an especially bright but sympathetic light on the city's outcast populace. A destitute woman here eyes a stray cat, "mumbling to herself that there walks two pounds of meat." An executioner's "facial pores appear to have been pricked repeatedly with pointed sticks." Pursuing his investigation, despite warnings from police and others, leads to Whitty being "thrown headlong from [a] swiftly moving carriage" and having an irate rat stuffed down the front of his trousers. However, this egocentric scribbler considers the pain worth the price, as he goes on to confront an unconvicted murderess, enlist a daring prostitute in searching for the suspicious owner of a silver flask, and face the scorn of his professional brethren--all to prove that Ryan isn't Chokee Bill, after all. Or is he? The Fiend in Human resolves this mystery amid elegant prose, frequent bursts of wit, and integral commentary on the failures of the press that reveals just how little has changed in a century and a half. --J. Kingston PierceFrom the Back Cover:
“Gray has a gift for dialogue and a keen sense of humour, which comes out in the hilarious exchanges between Whitty and his rival cronies.” -- Hamilton Spectator
“Gray has whipped up a marvelous, richly textured confection. All the sights and sounds and impressions of a brilliantly evoked era are here, together with a dexterous plot and a feel for the embroidered yet briny language of the period.” -- Quill & Quire
“Gray has a strong sense of place and setting....He also has a gift for dialogue, and a keen humour, much in evidence here...the action sequences are skillfully wrought and compelling.” -- The Globe and Mail
“Sex, drugs, violence -- it’s all here, and presented with deliciously wry humour....the unraveling of this complicated skein of secrets makes for a fascinating, enjoyable read, full of twists, reversals and last-minute shocks.” -- The Edmonton Journal
“Tight and vivid, propelled by an addictive mystery plot, the book makes the efforts of his peers look like dilettantism.... Gray delivers crisp writing of his own throughout the book. ...The Fiend In Human is anything but a newspaper columnist’s self-indulgence. A smart social commentary and ripping good tale, it’s clearly the work of a bona fide novelist firmly in control of his craft. A fly job, indeed, Mr. Gray.” -- National Post
“...riveting plot...Gray’s historical thriller is a step beyond slasher-horror plots. It presents us with the intellectual intrigues of murder, luring us with the hope that we can understand the stalker’s mentality...and the social evils that allow maniacs to thrive...He draws characters with colour and spark as vibrant as the theatre.” -- Ottawa Citizen
“...with this novel, [Gray] proves himself to be a true man of letters...Gray employs a Victorian style here to great effect. You feel as if you could be reading a novel from the period, rather than one merely set in that time...” -- New Brunswick Reader
“...Gray delivers and in spades.” -- Books in Canada
"The Fiend in Human gives the reader the kind of experience one wishes all historical novels provided but almost never do. It throws open the door on a side of Victorian London few will be acquainted with, and does so with an exuberance and wealth of detail worthy of the nineteenth-century masters. Vivid characters, dead-on dialogue, and a galloping good plot make The Fiend in Human a tale irresistible." -- Giles Blunt, author of Forty Words for Sorrow and The Delicate Storm
From the Hardcover edition.
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Book Description Arrow Books Ltd, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 99421453
Book Description Arrow Books Ltd, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0099421453