"An exciting historical mystery"
In 1852 London, Falcon reporter Edmund Whitty dubs William
Ryan, the prostitute killer, "Chokee Bill". Most of the
fallen females are pleased to learn the police caught
Chokee Bill because it makes it safe to offer their bodies
to the West End wealthy aristocrats.
Needing money as usual, Whitty accepts a deal to partner
with crime storywriter and seller Henry Owler who, on his
own, failed to gain an interview with Chokee Bill. Edmund
meets Ryan and soon wonders if the police arrested the
wrong man. If he is right, Edmund realizes that the real
murderer might be observing him, Owler, and his new
partner's daughter especially as the journalist tours
London in search of clues. If true, this diabolical serial
killer will never allow anyone to point the finger.
Though quite similar to other serial killer tales
especially those involving the Ripper, readers will enjoy
this terse Victorian investigative novel. The story line
provides insight into the era and includes a taste of
London and a deep look at the social classes and a myopic
justice system. With their flaws, obvious intelligence and
moral consciences, Whitty and Owler are fine lead sleuths.
They are reminiscent of Holmes and Watson so that readers
of nineteenth century mysteries will appreciate this solid
Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted August 25, 2003
It's 1852, and the ranks of the London poor have doubled. In the swollen shadow of the great St. Giles Rookery, fallen women attract the perfumed dandies of the West End into a vicious circle of venality, vanity, and vice.
Edmund Whitty, correspondent for The Falcon, the city's second-best sensational tabloid, writes whatever will stimulate the reader, delay his (increasingly physical) creditors, and supply him with the alcohol and opiates required to see him through the day. His most recent triumph was to supply a name for the fiend in human form who has murdered an uncertain number of prostitutes with a white silk scarf: Chokee Bill. Chokee Bill incited a garroting panic that paralyzed the business of London---until the arrest of one William Ryan. Normality has returned. The hangman, Mr. Calcraft, as dusty and dreary as death itself, awaits.
Broke again and in search of crisp copy, Whitty makes a shocking but not altogether surprising discovery: the white-scarf slayings have continued. When he endeavors to find the real Chokee Bill, he is greeted with emphatic hostility on all sides.
This thrilling Dickensian tale offers galvanizing suspense and an evocative and witty vision of life in Victorian London.