I first 'discovered' Stephen Gallagher back in the late 80s, when his horror novel Valley of Lights was well reviewed in, iirc, Starburst magazine. I bought it and read it, and went on to read a couple of his other novels; Oktober and Chimera (which was adapted for a tv mini-series in the early 90s). And since then I'd pretty much forgotten about him.
Starting in 1903 in Philadelphia, detective Sebastian Becker is drawn back into an unsolved mystery when he recognises a face linked to traumatic events in his past. The story then moves between 1903 and 1888 in Victorian England, as the rest of the story is gradually revealed, intertwining with Becker's personal life, his wife and autistic child, and a touring stage production that may be the cover for a serial killer.
Gallagher has an economic style that flows very well, and the pages flew past. On the face of it, the story is very similar to that of Valley of Lights, just set in the past. And, again like Valley of Lights, it comes close to being great. There's just something missing that holds it back slightly, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. I think, perhaps, he missed an opportunity to take his idea of the Wanderer that step further and make this a truly chilling and atmospheric novel. As it is, the chills aren't scary enough and, despite all the period detail, the atmosphere is strangely low key.
That said, I found it a very enjoyable read. It's an intelligently written tale with decent characters and a good sense of time and place. Notably, Bram Stoker is a major character in the story, and it is evident from the notes at the back of the book that Gallagher did a huge amount of research into his life. Also, Sebastian Becker is already the subject of a sequel, The Bedlam Detective.