Letters From the Dead by Sam Hurcom – review

Published by Orion

Publication date – 26 November 2020

Source – review copy

1905. A year after ‘the affair’ in Dinas Powys, Thomas Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, haunted by terrible visions of the dead. But when news of a spate of extraordinary kidnappings reaches him, Thomas is shocked to learn that his dear friend and former mentor, Professor Elijah Hawthorn, is the lead suspect.

Discovering a plea for help from Hawthorn claiming to have unearthed a gruesome conspiracy at the heart of the Metropolitan Police, Thomas embarks on a journey to prove Hawthorn’s innocence.

But wherever Thomas goes, he is followed by the dead, and as the mystery of Hawthorn’s disappearance deepens, so too does Thomas’s apparent insanity…

How can Thomas be certain of the truth when he can’t trust anybody around him, not even himself…?

1905. Not Thomas Bexley’s finest year to date. Still struggling to come to terms with the ghosts that have haunted him since the previous year, he has turned to alcohol to see him through. But when police believe that his former mentor is the one they call the Wraith of London, Thomas has to investigate. Could his old friend really be kidnapping and killing random people? Thomas has to battle with ghosts, the police and his own personal demons to find out.

This is the second book from Sam Hurcom to feature Thomas Bexley, though the reader doesn’t have to have read A Shadow on the Lens before reading this book.

I loved the time period the book was set in. A new century, a new monarch and a new dawn in the understanding of forensics, the feel is that the world, or London at least, are on the crossroads from the old to the new. There is mention of the suffragettes, of fingerprinting, forensic photography, ballistics and X-rays.

It was easy to imagine the streets, the sights and sounds of London, the stenches of the sewer system and hissing of steam trains. The characters could be seen in the mind’s eye. Starched collars, stiff moustaches and the well known uniform of the bobbies on the beat.

Thomas is an interesting character, coming to terms yet not understanding the ghosts that visit him. He has chosen to escape into a bottle, which slightly contradicts the impression the reader has of a strong, enquiring mind, one who is not prone to take things on face value.

The first third of the story engaged my attention. I did soon work out what had happened and who was at fault, which did lead to the middle dragging a little bit. The final part sped by though, as I watched Thomas catch up with the conclusions I had formed. There is also, at the end, the seed sown for future investigations with a supernatural tint.

This was an entertaining read, one which blends history, crime and the supernatural into a mix that works.

I shall keep a look out for more investigations of Thomas Bexley in the future.

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