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The Incendiary's Trail [Paperback]

James McCreet
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 2010

Murder is rampant in Early Victorian London. Detective Inspector Newsome of the new Detective Force decides to recruit a recently-apprehended master criminal to help bring the culprits to justice. A polymath with a mysterious past, the man is no eager volunteer.

And when the ghastly murder of conjoined twins galvanizes the city, Newsome blackmails his prisoner – Noah Dyson, as he calls himself – into working with the Force’s finest: Sergeant George Williamson.

Unknown to the policemen, the criminal genius behind the murder shares a dark past with their new associate. It is not justice that is on Dyson’s mind, but retribution. As Williamson and Dyson together close the net, the murder-rate soars and the streets of London begin to burn. Ingeniously plotted and seething with grotesque characters, James McCreet’s striking debut will grip readers from its first dark pages.

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (1 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230743404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230743403
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 582,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"James McCreet's splendid debut novel owes much to Charles Dickens's melodramatic style and subject matter. Victorian in both the setting and the telling, full of vividly depicted squalor and grotesquery . . . The novel's spectacular set-pieces include a public hanging, a masked ball and a hot-air balloon chase. Well worth reading." --"Guardian"


'Victorian in both the setting and the telling, full of vividly depicted squalor and grotesquery...Well worth reading.'

'McCreet's depiction of Victorian London is fantastic. The city is almost alive in this book.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful to have a fresh opportunity to enjoy London as a scene of Dickensian squalor, with suitably grotesque characters and an intriguing and original plot. I very much appreciated the author's skill in teasing the reader with solutions to elements of the mystery throughout the novel, rather than saving it all until the last few pages - and there was always plenty more to keep me intrigued and racing to the end. Fans of Mr. Whicher should recognise some of the characters, and the setting of London's new detective force in its infancy, but with all the excitement and mystery surrounding the murder and none of the dullness. Don't get me wrong: I am a fan of Mr Whicher but the book is constrained by the need to stick to the facts: one friend described it to me as 'so boring, and yet so compelling' which I think is pretty accurate. As a work of fiction The Incendiary's Trail is not thus constrained and that means you get all the compelling without the boring!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mellow Drama 18 Aug 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
James McCreet's The Incendiary's Trail, infused with exotic, almost paranormal strains of morbidity, peopled by ogre-like unfortunates, verging on the grotesque, and set in the dark London of the "Penny Dreadfuls" is paradoxically a stunning and enthralling work. The prose vivid, energetic and powerfully descriptive, without succumbing to hyperbole or melodrama, presents each scenario in but one colour -- gray --but what a wealth of tonal shades are encompassed in its creation. This is storytelling at its finest and has been crafted by a confident artisan. Robert Davidson. The Tuzla Run
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5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure 8 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly enjoyable novel. Great prose and brilliant atmosphere. London itself was the most fleshed out character, but the human characters were well-drawn, intriguing, and served the story well (though the nitty-gritty exploration of the main characters seems to be reserved for the subsequent novels -- something that's hinted at with several tantalising tidbits thrown in here and there). It's finely paced and the character dynamics are pleasing, and although the plot creaks in one or two places, it's certainly not to the novel's detriment.

In a nutshell: do yourself a favour and give this a go. It's an impressive debut.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent debut 11 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Masterfully depicted seedy and sooty 1840s (something) London underworld. I relished the author's writing skills; reading was pure joy. There is plenty of action and the plot is original and intriguing. Maybe I just was in the right mood, but a actually gasped in surprise a couple of times. The only flaw resides in the two dimansional characters. The protagonists are also confusing at times (had to re-read paragraphs to understand who was who). But this is a minor blemish to an excellently conceived and written novel. I highly recommend it to lovers of detective fiction set in the Victoria era. Looking forward to reading the second and third book in the series.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I am still undecided 8 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I still cannot make up my mind on this. I would give it two-and-a-half stars if I could. I enjoyed the Victorian language and the author is clearly skilled at using it. I thought the plot was rather thin (and the following isn't a spoiler as it is clear from the outset who the murderer is)... in particular, why would a serial killer risk his life to murder everyone who could reveal his identity - when everyone in London knows who the killer is anyway? However, my main bug-bear with this book is that I like to feel that I can get behind one of the characters and will them to succeed. This didn't really happen and yet the author had every opportunity to do this with the character of Noah. Instead I felt distanced from everyone. I am going to try the second instalment but if it isn't any better than this one, I don't think I will read the third.
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