The Detective and the Devil

Written by Lloyd Shepherd
Review by Tracey Warr

In 16th-century London, Jacobus, a Dutch mercenary steals the library of the notorious necromancer, John Dee. Jacobus double-crosses the merchants who hired him and takes one particular manuscript for himself. In 19th-century London, constable Charles Horton is called to a scene he hoped he had witnessed for the last time: a family of three – father, mother, daughter – horribly murdered. He had previously caught and prosecuted a murderer of two families in the same area and thought he had seen an end to this particular type of crime. Had he previously caught the wrong man or were there more devious influences at work? Horton is ably assisted in his pursuit of the murderer by his learned wife, Abigail. Horton’s enquiries take him into the secretive East India Company, and then after a murderous attempt on Abigail, they travel to the mysterious Atlantic island, St Helena’s, pursuing the mystery of the murders and John Dee’s stolen manuscript.

It took me a while to get into the book because of the flashbacks at the beginning to the 16th century, which disrupted the main 19th-century murder mystery pursued by the Hortons, but once I was enmeshed in the story I was gripped, and once gripped, I could not put it down. The rendering of the tender relationship between Charles and Abigail is especially effective. A complex and well-written tale.