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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Authentic William James

The Authentic William James.    Well, I had no idea their were so many categories for lunatics!  There were pauper lunatics and non-pauper lunatics; criminal lunatics, naval lunatics, melancholics, hysterics, epileptics.  And there were Chancery lunatics, usually members of rich families who were deemed incapable of managing their own affairs.  
 Our protagonist Simon Becker is a Special Investigator for the British Crown tasked with  "gathering evidence that determines whether or not someone is a Chancery Lunatic—afflicted with madness making them unfit to manage their fortunes—without tipping the hand of those whose resources often make them above the law."   

There are two earlier novels featuring Simon Becker, but I didn't realize this when I read the book, which functions quite well as a stand-alone.  However, since I found the novel quite entertaining, liked the quirkiness of Simon Becker's job, and found the characters intriguing, the earlier novels are on my library list.

There is no mention of William James, brother of Henry, but I wonder if Gallagher meant to call him to mind.  At any rate, that is the William James the title suggested to me when I first saw it.

Stephen Gallagher has quite the background--no wonder the book appealed to me:

Beginning his TV career with the BBC's DOCTOR WHO, Stephen Gallagher went on to establish himself as a writer and director of high-end miniseries and primetime episodic television. In his native England he's adapted and created hour-long and feature-length thrillers and crime dramas. In the US he was lead writer on NBC's CRUSOE, creator of CBS Television's ELEVENTH HOUR, and Co-Executive Producer on ABC's THE FORGOTTEN. His fourteen novels include DOWN RIVER, RAIN, VALLEY OF LIGHTS, and NIGHTMARE, WITH ANGEL. He's the creator of Sebastian Becker, Special Investigator to the Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy, in a series of novels beginning with THE KINGDOM OF BONES and THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE. 

Described by The Independent as "the finest British writer of bestselling popular fiction since le Carré ... Gallagher, like le Carré, is a novelist whose themes seem to reflect something of the essence of our times, and a novelist whose skill lies in embedding those themes in accessible plots." According to Arena magazine, "Gallagher has quietly become Britain's finest popular novelist, working a dark seam between horror and the psychological thriller.

The Daily Telegraph wrote, "Since Valley of Lights, he has been refining his own brand of psycho-thriller, with a discomforting knack of charting mental disintegration and a razor-sharp sense of place." Charles de Lint wrote in Mystery Scene magazine, "Gallagher is a master of abnormal psychology and he just gets better and better." Also in Mystery Scene David Mathew added, "never a writer to rest on his laurels, he has written good hard thrillers, some horror genre work (such as Valley of Lights), and a novel (Oktober) that might even qualify as a vague distortion of contemporary world fantasy... in places. You might go as far as to employ that overused phrase sui generis. He is, at any rate, one of the best writers of his generation."

Winner of British Fantasy and International Horror Guild awards.
I will mention this one again closer to publication.

NetGalley/Subterranean Press

Historical Mystery.  Sept. 30, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.


  1. This sounds fascinating, Jenclair. I didn't know there were so many categories for lunatics either. My husband would probably be interested in this one just because of the author's tie to the Doctor Who show.

    1. I didn't realize the Dr. Who connection until after I'd read the novel, but Gallagher seems to do well slipping through the genres. :)

  2. I thought this was a non-fiction book at first. Silly me.

    1. Because of the "William James" in the title? Definitely fiction, though, Lark.

  3. I've no idea there're so many categories for lunatics, too. This sounds like an intriguing read. Thanks for sharing, Jenclair!

    1. It was an interesting mystery that ranged from London to California as Becker followed his suspect. The Chancery Lunatic could be committed by relatives who wanted financial control or commit himself to avoid punishment for a crime, then be released as "cured." These are the situations Simon Becker investigated.