An unconventional British inspector tracks a brutal killer who gets his lethal inspirations from movies...or may be documenting his murders on film.
A black-hooded figure seems to float unseen through the streets of London in 1914, killing with impunity. He first lands on the radar of DI Silas Quinn (The Mannequin House, 2013, etc.) when he strikes in Leicester Square outside Porrick's Picture Palace, where the detective is attending the world premiere of the German film The Eyes of the Beholder. The event is of particular interest since local tensions with Germany are building and war is on the horizon. Indeed, the imperious Lord Dunwich, also in attendance at the premiere, is rabidly ferreting out German spies. The film is graphic and horrific, depicting a serial killer and mutilated victims, one a prostitute with her eyes removed. Not far away, the hooded figure, whose creepy chapters counterpoint the main action of Quinn's investigation, claims a victim using the same modus operandi as the film's killer. The city is terrorized, and in order to unravel the complex mystery, the iconoclastic Quinn teams up with the bombastic Dunwich, forming a detective duo that poses no competition to Holmes and Watson. A lively cast of supporting characters—including dapper German barber Fritz Dortmunder, crass theater owner Magnus Porrick and starchy doctor Augustus Casaubon—adds Dickensian zest.
Quinn's third case, which anticipates cinéma vérité by nearly a century, benefits greatly from Morris' colorful period-flavor prose.