A reporter’s work in the African Colonial Service offers him insights into a series of murders reportedly committed by cannibals.
At the opening of the Royal Courts of Justice in 1882, Alec Lonsdale learns that Alexander Haldane, barrister and newspaper owner, has been hacked to death in the basement. This is just the first of several deaths attributed to the Kumu cannibals brought over from Africa to spice up the opening of the British Museum’s Natural History Branch. Tim Roth, Lonsdale’s friend from Africa, has not breathed a word of this story, but Hulda Friederichs, Lonsdale’s clever and ambitious fellow reporter on the Pall Mall Gazette, somehow knows about it. Lonsdale is constantly dogged by Henry Voules, whose wealthy father got him a job on the Echo, a rag willing to print his ridiculous stories, including a pack of lies about Roderick Maclean’s recent escape from Broadmoor, where he was confined after trying to shoot Queen Victoria. Lonsdale, who lives with his barrister brother, Jack, is becoming more uncertain about his feelings for Anne, the fiancee he fears is becoming more like her narrow-minded sister, Emelia, Jack’s fiancee. He’s also being pressured by their father, Sir Gervais Humbage, a snob who abhors Lonsdale’s profession. The next victim is professor Dickerson, who brought the Kumu from the Congo and squired them about the country. Despite the mounting pile of bodies, all killed the same way, Scotland Yard insists they were not murdered and assigns the case to their dullest detective. Lonsdale, Hulda, and Inspector George Peters, the Yard’s star detective, quietly continue to investigate. At least four of the murdered men were members of the Garraway Club, which includes a group calling themselves Watchers, who rumor suggests are preparing a nasty surprise for Christmas.
Beaufort’s second puzzle for his journalist sleuths (Mind of a Killer, 2018) is thronged with real-life characters and almost too many twists and turns for comfort.