The Zealot’s Bones
Writing under the pseudonym D. M. Mark, this is David Mark’s first historical crime novel. Set in Hull and its environs in 1849, it is the story of Mesach Stone, an ex-soldier who works as a bodyguard for wealthy travellers in Europe. His current employer is Diligence Matheson, the son of a rich Canadian, who is hunting for Simon the Zealot’s bones.
Hull is in the grip of a cholera epidemic, and it is not until roughly halfway through the novel that Stone realises some of the prostitutes who have died have been killed, not by cholera, but by a man who has eviscerated them. While Stone is hunting the killer, Matheson is staying with a friend in the country in a mansion that has many secret passages, used by the friend’s bodyguard, and a rat catcher who has been called in. Throughout the novel the reader is led to suspect two people as the murderer.
This is well written, with some good characterisation, especially in the descriptions of past events in which he was culpable and which Stone is trying to forget. There are some inconsistencies, but no historical anomalies jumped out at me. However, it is very dark and violent, and may not be to everyone’s taste.