three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The Kingdom of BonesFalsely accused of serial murder, retired bare-knuckle champion Tom Sayers, now part of a traveling theater company, fights for his life in this Victorian-era psychological thriller. Sayers, a character drawn from real life, struggles to prove his innocence while eluding his nemesis, Pinkerton detective Sebastian Becker, and saving the young actress Louise Porter, with whom the boxer is hopelessly infatuated. Sayers enlists the help of friend and writer Bram Stoker, whose connections to the occult world will bring the action to a climax-and Sayers and those around him to the point of destruction.
Shaye Areheart. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 030738280X

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The Kingdom of Bones . . . shows the occult mystery in its best light. ... Although Gallagher delivers horror with a grand melodramatic flourish, his storytelling skills are more subtly displayed in scenes of the provincial theaters, gentleman's sporting clubs and amusement parks where a now-vanished society once took its rough pleasures." Marilyn Stasio

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Having a master of gothic horror appear in your thriller is a shrewd strategy: Gallagher's treatment of Stoker seems fair to real-life accounts of him. Having him lumber along also adds literary richness to a story that moves a little too much like a modern thriller despite the weight of its Victorian clothing." Nick Owchar

Richmond Times-Dispatch 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While some of the thrill of his novel depends upon the supernatural, Gallagher pulls it off with genuine skill. ... The dirt and clatter of the 19th-century theater scene make for a great background for the grisly murders, and no reader will be let down by the ending." Francis W. Decker

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"For all the thrills promised by the title, Kingdom of Bones is a somewhat dry, uneventful tale. ... The story may not hurtle like a Ludlum novel, but it provides more sedate rewards, such as plot clarity and a sense of believability." Peter Mergendahl

Critical Summary

The Brit Stephen Gallagher isn't new to genre fiction, having published more than a dozen novels and collections, most recently The Painted Bride (2006), The Spirit Box (2005), and Out of His Mind (2004). The Kingdom of Bones does not masquerade as a historical novel. Rather, despite some slow spots and anachronisms, it succeeds as a thriller that perfectly captures the Victorian era's culture. Thanks to attentive research, Gallagher's narrative tapestry-particularly his portrayal of Victorian society on two continents-is as rich as that of Caleb Carr's The Alienist or The Angel of Darkness, with which the novel will undoubtedly be compared.