Pall Mall Gazette reporter Alec Lonsdale is working on a fatal house fire when he is accosted by a woman telling him that there have been more deaths and she has information on them. After a post-mortem reveals that the victim, Patrick Donovan, was murdered and that part of his brain had been removed, Lonsdale is determined to put his journalistic skills to good use and investigate what has happened. Assisted by his colleague, the feisty female reporter, Hulda Friederichs, when more bodies are found, their attempts to uncover the truth are thwarted at every step. Exactly who is stopping them from uncovering the truth?
One of the things I enjoy most about well-written historical crime fiction is the ability to transport the reader back in time, giving you the opportunity to experience the sounds, sights and smells of the era. Mind of a Killer certainly does this, evoking images of downtrodden Londoners, doing anything they can to make ends meet. In stark contrast, we see how life differed for the upper classes, and how vast the divide between the two groups was. Simon Beaufort certainly takes you back to Victorian London to a time when people were distrustful of the new underground rail system and how journalists were reluctant to print celebrity stories!
By having journalists as the main protagonists, Mind of a Killer moves the story away from it being a typical police procedural. Lonsdale is a great character but he is usurped in every scene by the inimitable Hulda, a strong woman if ever there was one! I was fascinated to read that the character was based on a real journalist who worked for The Pall Mall Gazette. Obviously, the author has taken some artistic licence, but after reading that she was the first female journalist to work on the same pay terms as her male counterparts, there is certainly an element of the fictional firebrand there!
The mystery is a particularly gruesome one with people being found murdered, horrifically disfigured with their cerebrum removed. It soon becomes apparent that there is more than one killer on the loose and that there are several other conspirators bound to keeping the operation secret. Despite the nature of the crimes, the actual murders are mainly kept off the page meaning that it never becomes too much to read for anyone of a nervous disposition.
Mind of a Killer is a great read which will hopefully become part of a series. Lonsdale and Friederichs definitely have more to offer.
With thanks to Severn House Publishers and Net Galley for the ARC.