Bornais’s first English translation, winner of France’s Black Claw Award, sends a newly promoted London detective to Glasgow to investigate a series of murders reaching back over 50 years to 1832.
The two crimes making 1887 headlines are gruesome enough. Lord Archibald Hare and his servant have been killed by a rusty, sharp-pointed instrument. But they’re only the latest in a series of victims including a pharmacist and his daughter in 1885 and a prostitute in 1880, all dispatched with the same weapon. When the list grows to include a Coventry wine merchant and three farm couples far from Glasgow, Sgt. Joe Hackney, sent north on his first big case, knows he’s up against no ordinary antagonist. With the help of Supt. Dougal Buchanan of the Glasgow CID, he identifies the killer as Rudy Hogg, an itinerant linked to both the pharmacist and the prostitute. Although witnesses agree on Hogg’s red hair and crippled left arm, however, they disagree wildly about his age. If the man who killed Elisabeth and Kirk Hoggarg, back in 1832, was really in his 60s then, Hackney reasons, he’d be 110 now. The explanation takes this tale firmly into the supernatural realm of William Hjörtsberg’s Falling Angel.
A horrific yarn vigorously presented, though the translation is full of racy anachronisms from “you jerk” to “launched into her spiel” that don’t sound much like 1887 at all.