Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
‘I am the manservant of death’ pronounces the narrator at the opening of Sam Christer’s new thriller The House of Smoke. The narrator is Simeon Lynch and he’s not joking. He has killed not once but many times over the previous fifteen years. We are in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty and as the cover’s shoutline proclaims: ‘Sherlock Holmes’ greatest nemesis unleashes Victorian London’s deadliest assassin,’ although this novel is no Holmes pastiche.
When the book opens it is New Year’s Eve 1899, Simeon is in Newgate under sentence of death and he is 18 days away from the hangman. What’s his gruesome story? We learn it bit by bit as the clock ticks. Simeon has spent his adult life in the House of Moriarty carrying out his employer’s every wish, a task that involves murdering without question, no matter the victim.
The opening in Newgate prison seems to indicate that a straightforward thriller of a monster who kills left right and centre lies ahead, but this well plotted and mesmerising novel is far from straightforward. What one expects doesn’t always happen. The judgements the reader makes on the characters and situations can be turned on their heads and the unexpected frequently surprises throughout. Blood and gore are everywhere, but the pace sweeps the reader on regardless.
Sam Christer is the pseudonym of a journalist and TV producer, and The House of Smoke is his fourth thriller following The Stonehenge Legacy, The Turin Shroud Secret and The Camelot Code. I look forward to the fifth.