Liam Rudden: Murder and madness make for thrilling reads

Dark Asylum
by  ES Thomson
Dark Asylum by ES Thomson
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HOLIDAY reading. Always a dilemma. Not so earlier this month, however, thanks to two gripping new novels from Edinburgh based authors - Dark Asylum by ES Thomson and Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill.

Both set in the Victorian London of pea-soupers, work-houses and cobbled alleyways, their authors paint detailed and dramatic pictures of a much romanticised era.

In Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek, as the cover highlights, ‘the strange case continues...’.

A sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the misguided, long thought deceased doctor has returned.

It’s seven years since the death of Edward Hyde and the mysterious disappearance of Jekyll. But now a stylish gentleman claiming to be Dr Henry Jekyll has appeared in his London home.

Only Jekyll’s solicitor Mr Utterson knows that this man must be an imposter.

As the boundaries between madness and reason blur, is anything or anyone what or who they at first seem?

Seamlessly taking up the tale where Stevenson left off, O’Neill’s novella is page-turner, a fast read that can, and probably should be consumed in one sitting.

There’s also a nice nod to Capital. O’Neill moved here after falling in love with the city on a research trip and admits it greatly inspired his tale, in which one chapter captures Edinburgh in all its Victorian glory.

Ingenious and compelling, Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek is a truly atmospheric read.

So too is Dark Asylum, a beguiling thriller set in the underbelly of Victorian London.

ES Thomson’s gruesome world of murder and more madness opens with the discovery of a body.

It’s 1851 and at the Angel Meadow Asylum, Dr Rutherford, principal physician to the insane, is dead, his head bashed in, ears cut off, lips and eyes stitched closed.

Enter Jem Flockhart, an investigator who is not all they seem, and sidekick Will Quartermain.

Together they must piece together the facts and identify the murderer before the body count rises.

From sordid brothels to derelict graveyards and the miserable world of the asylum, Thomson’s eye for detail is exquisite.

Laced with secrets and red herrings, Thomson keeps the surprises coming.

Definitely a read to chill the bones on a dark winter’s night.

So, now I need something new to read, which is fortunate as Bonnie Macbird’s latest Sherlock Holmes’ adventure, Unquiet Spirits, has just dropped on my desk.

Fresh from debunking a ‘ghostly’ hound in Dartmoor. Holmes returns to London only to find he is the target of a vendetta and soon finds himself caught up in a tale of kidnapping, ghosts and dynamite...

So, I’m all set for another trip to Victorian times, with the Capital featuring in the action once again too. Let’s hope it lives up to the first two books.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill, published by Black & White, paperback, £8.99

Dark Asylum by ES Thomson, published by Constable, paperback, £8.99

Unquiet Spirits by Bonnie Macbird, published by Harper Collins, hardback, £14.99