cover image Dark Asylum

Dark Asylum

E.S. Thomson. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-68177-539-5

Thomson’s captivating second Victorian mystery featuring apothecary Jem Flockhart (after 2016’s Beloved Poison) showcases the author’s talent for creating creepy and rewarding plot twists. Jem’s backstory is appropriately Dickensian: “My mother died as I was born; my father hanged for a crime he did not commit. I am their only surviving child—a daughter, whose identity my father swapped at birth for my dead twin brother’s.” Disguised as a man, Jem lives above her apothecary shop near London’s Angel Meadow Asylum, “a dark, square-shouldered hulk,” which becomes the scene of a gruesome murder. Dr. Rutherford, the asylum’s sadistic superintendent, is found lying in a pool of blood with calipers used to take phrenological measurements buried in his brain, his ears missing, and his lips sewn shut. Jem chooses to search for the killer herself, aided by her closest friend and roommate, Will Quartermain. Thomson makes the most of the asylum as a setting, eerily conveying its claustrophobic confines. Agent: Jenny Brown, Jenny Brown Associates (U.K.). (Nov.)