From Publishers Weekly
Australian novelist O'Neill (Scheherazade) tips his hat to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with his own spellbinding tale of a soul divided. Set in the late 19th century in Robert Louis Stevenson's native Edinburgh, the novel follows Evelyn Todd, an excitable young woman whose arrival in the city coincides with a wave of savage murders. Bloody corpses turn up on the main thoroughfares, with ominous messages left near the remains. The city's expert sleuth is away in London, and the aging Insp. Carus Groves finally has an opportunity to step up his unremarkable career, if only he could figure out how to conduct a homicide investigation. The real sleuthing is done by Thomas McKnight and his young friend Joseph Canavan. They're not detectives by trade, but having recently lost their jobs as logic professor and cemetery watchman, respectively, they have the time and wits to pursue the killer. All paths lead to the seemingly respectable Evelyn, who works for a bookbinder. She has been suffering from nightmares in which she has precise visions of the murders as they unfold. Just what is her relationship to the slayings? The gripping climax reveals devastating events from Evelyn's childhood, beginning when she is plucked from an orphanage by a swindler claiming to be her father. O'Neill is a masterful storyteller with a thorough knowledge of both the urban life and the literary tropes of late 19th-century Britain and has created characters embodying the questions about good and evil, faith and fanaticism that preoccupied Stevenson's contemporaries. But readers won't pause too long to admire his erudition-the thrilling story will have them turning pages compulsively.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
An intriguing prologue sets the reader up for an atmospheric thriller set in 1880s Edinburgh. Young, orphaned Evelyn is rescued from an institution by a man claiming to be her father. The girl has had a fascination with the local lamplighters and daydreams about them, going so far as to conjure one up in her prison bedroom one night. Twenty years later, grisly serial murders are taking place all over the city, and there are no suspects. A retiring inspector pairs with a university professor and his grave-digging assistant. When Evelyn appears in the police station, describing dreams of all the murder scenes and mentioning pertinent messages left behind by the killer, whom she can't identify, the investigators look into her own mysterious past. The author maintains a methodical yet engaging pace. Details and clues are parceled out, but readers will enjoy the Victorian gothic setting and the characters, even though they will likely figure out who the murderer is long before the end. Purchase where historical mysteries and thrillers are popular. Kaite MediatoreCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved