Scribner, Feb 2003, 25.00, 308 pp.
In 1886 Edinburgh residents become frightened when a series of brutal murders occur and an eerie grave-robbing incident happens. The brass assigns Inspector Carus Groves to solve the case. Carus is a sanctimonious egotist writing his memoirs every evening, but turning the accounts into more of an autobiographical fiction piece than a biography. He sees himself as a hero on adventurer rather than a plodding cop though on this serial killing case he has doubts about himself.
Retired due to age, Edinburgh University Professor of Logic and Metaphysics Thomas McKnight and his Irish friend Canavan, fired as the watchman of the cemetery where the grave robbery occurred, begin their own inquiries. The duo searches for a seemingly supernatural person who apparently tore an adult into pieces. The clues lead to publisher assistant Evelyn Todd, who returned to her home city where two decades ago she lived as a Dickens poster girl orphan. She knows too much detail about the crimes so McKnight and Canavan try mesmerism, Freudian psychoanalysis, metaphysics, and other isms seeking her link to the terror of the night.
The atmosphere of a terrorized Edinburgh will be felt by the reader once the prologue is finished and the tale moves forward to 1886. The story line grips the audience as the reader compares the two investigations, but wonders if the culprit is supernatural or human. The cast is cleverly drawn to add depth to the tension while showing the foibles of the lead players. Fans of historical suspense thrillers where the tension just keeps growing will want to read Anthony O'Neill's terrific tale but remember to keep the lights on.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner