The Fallen Architect

Written by Charles Belfoure
Review by Rebecca Kightlinger

England, c. 1900. When a section of the Britannia Empire Theater’s balcony collapses, killing fourteen theatergoers, architect Douglas Layton is convicted of murder. After serving five years, the reviled Layton, now called The Butcher of the West End, begins a new life with only the tweed suit on his back and the fifty-eight pound notes in his pocket.

He creates a new identity and takes a job as a set painter for a variety theater. While exploring the edifice, he discovers a skeleton hidden within a wall. On conveniently finding a second skeleton wearing a ring that identifies the victim as one of Layton’s former associates, Layton immediately knows that these two men were responsible for sabotaging that balcony segment. The only question is Who put them up to it?

Author Charles Belfoure is an architect by profession, and his book is replete with details about theater architecture, including backstage structure and details of the variety shows and artistes of the time. The prologue reveals that the architect is innocent; and throughout the book, the author further helps the reader along by providing summary narrative that interprets, explains, or blurts out elements of story or character development that readers might otherwise have to come to by seeing characters interact in scenes.

Long on architectural detail but short on literary crafting and editing, The Fallen Architect is riddled with stereotypical characters including poofs, a happy Pygmy, and a sourpuss Scot; redundancies including “whole entire,” “strong stentorian,” “clomped loudly”; and clichés including grinning from ear to ear, pea-soup fog, dressed to the nines, so the manuscript retains that fresh, first-draft feel.

Readers interested in being spoon-fed might find this novel a treat, but those seeking polished work worthy of a “New York Times bestselling author” might want to keep looking.