Mind of a Killer

Written by Simon Beaufort
Review by Judith Starkston

In London in 1882, Alec Lonsdale, a reporter for the Pall Mall Gazette, stumbles upon a house fire and investigates in hopes of a good story. Having left the Colonial Service in Africa and in need of making his living, he’s trying to win the confidence of his editor and gain a full-time position. The burning house proves both fruitful and confounding. The dead body inside reveals something alarming during the autopsy: someone neatly removed part of the brain. And then others die, and more brains go missing. But the police squelch Alec’s inquiries, and they dismiss the connections he’s drawing.

This novel is both gruesome and intriguing. If the misuse of Darwin and other Victorian intellectual misadventures captivate your more ghoulish sense of history, then I recommend this mystery. Beaufort weaves together Victorian scientific thought, emerging forensics, the hard realities of poverty in 19th-century London, the suffocating roles allowed for women and some sick criminals. That’s quite a brew, and it will keep you guessing. Alec is a likeable, upper-class man with broad enough life experience that he thinks in unconventional ways. He treats unorthodox women and others with respect and the villains with a strong fist to the face.

Beaufort effectively binds his reader to this amateur sleuth so that the life and death situations keep the pages flipping. An enjoyable, on-the-dark-side, Victorian mystery.