The Highwayman and Mr. Dickens: An Account of the Strange Events of the Medusa Murders: A Secret Victorian Journal, Attributed to Wilkie Collins

William J. Palmer, Editor St. Martin's Press $18.95 (273p) ISBN 978-0-312-08207-9
Second in a series inventing the secret journals of 19th-century ghost-story author Wilkie Collins, this uneven mystery trails novelist Charles Dickens through a warren of murky London streets in 1852. Sprung from a salacious embrace with his bawd, Irish Meg, Collins hears that Tallyho Thompson, a highwayman turned actor, is accused of killing a lady and her servant. ``This tyme 'ee's innersent,'' squeaks Meg's friend and Tallyho's helpmeet, Scarlet Bess. In cahoots with Inspector Field of the Metropolitan Protectives, Dickens and Collins help Tallyho escape from Newgate Prison. The quartet work to trip up the Medusa Murderer, whose victims' faces are found frozen in agony. A cobweb-thin, lackluster plot is shouldered aside by the meticulously crafted setting and Palmer's pleasure in literary and historical asides: a young Dr. Jekyll makes a cameo appearance; hansom cabs clatter down badly paved streets; accents are laid on so thick as to make speech unintelligible at times. Despite some witless dialogue and padded narrative, fans of both Dickens and Palmer ( The Detective and Mr. Dickens ) will enjoy this ride. BOMC alternate. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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