It is 1912, Sebastian Becker born in England, was once a Pinkerton man in Philadelphia. He has now returned to London and is the special investigator to the Masters of Lunacy. This was a government department headed by Sir James Crichton-Browne, the Visitor in Lunacy is asked to send an investigator to interview persons reported to be mentally unstable. The post is poorly paid and Becker’s wife has to work
Becker is sent to Arnmouth to speak with Sir Owain Lancaster of Arnside Hall. Sir Owain has had his sanity questioned since returning from a disastrous expedition to the Amazon. His family, colleagues, porters and guides were killed. Sir Owain and one other man were the only survivors. Owain claims monsters from the rain forest have pursued him to Arnmouth. Dr Sibley, who was the physician on the boat that brought him home, lives with him at the hall. There is also a cook and Thomas Arnot the chauffeur
Becker arrives in Arnmouth to find that two girls have disappeared later found horribly murdered. Sir Owain claims that the same monsters that slaughtered his family are responsible they were “torn by beasts.” Other children have come to harm in Arnmouth though no one is prepared to speak. Becker must determine whether Sir Owain Lancaster is insane and a murderer or is there another explanation? Becker speaks with two girls who were attacked and survived some years before. Grace Eccles now a recluse and Evangeline Bancroft now a clerk and a suffragette living in London, both claim to remember nothing of the attack. Becker gets help from policeman Stephen Reed, and Sir Owain gives him the use of his car and chauffeur.
Stephen Gallagher as created an interesting main protagonist in Sebastian Becker who is well written and totally believable. Gallagher gives us a dark, unsettled, brooding atmosphere throughout the book with descriptions of Victorian place and time. The plot is a good one and satisfying since all plot points are in place. I shall keenly await the next book in the series.