The Phantom in the Fog (A Bowman Of The Yard Investigation 4)

Written by Richard James
Review by Marilyn Pemberton

London, 1892. This book, the fourth in the Bowman of the Yard series, starts where the third book, The Body in the Trees (HNR 95) left off: with the very endearing but damaged Detective Inspector George Bowman in a lunatic asylum. This is where he stays for the duration of the book, leaving his trusty and capable subordinate, Sergeant Graves, having to work with Bowman’s antithesis, the lazy, greedy and incompetent Detective Inspector Hicks.

Newly promoted Detective Superintendent Callaghan, who is well organised, officious and ambitious, assigns Graves to a fraud case and leaves a series of gruesome murders to the useless Hicks. A witness to one of these murders visits Bowman and tells him that the perpetrator was a fiend, who had green, glowing eyes and escaped by jumping over an impossibly high wall. The details remind Bowman of a case he had worked on ten years previously, and he contacts Graves to ask him to do some investigating on his behalf. Although Callaghan has explicitly ordered him not to, Graves manages to involve himself in the murder investigations.

Bowman’s nervous symptoms are successfully eased by a revolutionary method of applying an electrical current to the brain, and with the buried memories that come to the fore he is able to provide invaluable clues to Graves.

I found the chapters which describe Bowman’s mental state and his recovery extremely well-written, as are those of Victorian London and the police procedures, or lack thereof. Hicks is a truly unlikeable character, whereas the reader roots for Graves from start to finish. Readers interested in a good whodunnit, Victorian society or who are fans of Bowman and Graves will enjoy this book either as a standalone or as part of the series. Recommended.