Welcome to my stop on the Letters from the Dead blog tour! This historical crime novel is twisty, harrowing, and perfect for cosying up with on a cold winter’s night. Check out my thoughts below!
Letters from the Dead by Sam Hurcom
Publisher: Orion Books
Publication date: 26 November 2020
Genre: Gothic/crime fiction
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler free.
I have been absolutely loving Gothic historical fiction at the moment — it’s the perfect thing to read when the weather begins to turn and the nights get longer — and Letters from the Dead perfect fit the bill. I was totally swept away by this harrowing Gothic crime novel and its unreliable narrator — I struggled to put it down!
1905. A year after ‘the affair’ in Dinas Powys, Thomas Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, haunted by terrible visions of the dead. But when news of a spate of extraordinary kidnappings reaches him, Thomas is shocked to learn that his dear friend and former mentor, Professor Elijah Hawthorn, is the lead suspect.
Discovering a plea for help from Hawthorn claiming to have unearthed a gruesome conspiracy at the heart of the Metropolitan Police, Thomas embarks on a journey to prove Hawthorn’s innocence.
But wherever Thomas goes, he is followed by the dead, and as the mystery of Hawthorn’s disappearance deepens, so too does Thomas’s apparent insanity…
How can Thomas be certain of the truth when he can’t trust anybody around him, not even himself…?
Letters from the Dead is the second book in the Thomas Bexley series, however you can absolutely read this book without picking up the first novel, A Shadow on the Lens (although I plan to go back and read the first book!). These novels are set in Edwardian London and Scotland, and Hurcom creates a dizzyingly claustrophobic narrative that is so incredibly compelling. I had a great time watching the mystery unfold, picking up on the clues dotted throughout the story, and trying to figure out what was happening.
Bexley is a fascinating character because he’s a totally unreliable narrator. Not only is he an alcoholic with huge gaps in his memory between the events of the first book and the beginning of the second, but he’s also absolutely sure he’s going mad. He’s a twist on the classic broken detective character and being haunted by the dead — filling his life with unease and terror and keeping him on edge at all times. As the story progresses, he becomes more and more unstable and unreliable, but is he truly losing his mind? I really enjoyed following his story arc throughout this book, but I do feel like I missed a little bit of his initial character development having not read the first novel, which is totally my fault — I didn’t know him well to start out with and couldn’t compare him to the man he was before joining the police. Regardless, I found him absolutely fascinating and really enjoyed, if that’s the right word, watching his story unfold.
A fantastically twisted and macabre crime novel with just the right amount of horror, Letters from the Dead is a book I’d highly recommend for fans of historical-set crime fiction or Laura Purcell’s novels. In fact, I’ve already handed it off to my mother — what better endorsement can you get?
Want to pick up a copy of Letters from the Dead? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on this blog tour!