One of the books I took with me on holiday, but didn’t get round to reading, was a first novel by James McCreet, The Incendiary’s Trail. It’s part of the excellent Macmillan New Writing enterprise, which has already unearthed such talents as L.C. Tyler. My copy was borrowed by my son Jonathan, who liked the book so much that he has followed up his appraisal of Len’s latest with this review:
‘The Incendiary’s Trail begins in dramatic fashion with the discovery of a grisly murder in a dubious quarter of London. The case is lifted beyond the ordinary as the victims are part of a sideshow troupe: conjoined twins, and rapidly attracts the attention of the leering masses.
The unobtrusive narrator vividly depicts Victorian London and the fever which grips it as events escalate with arson and more murder. As pressure mounts on the fledgling Detective Force, the gloomy Sergeant Williamson must reconcile his drive for justice with pragmatism, and work with the enigmatic prisoner Noah Dyson. In pursuit of the culprit, he is forced to delve into London’s underworld and confront some of the most distasteful aspects of the era. The denouement matches the surreal and sensationalist theme of the book, with a masquerade and hot air balloon chase.
The lurid setting is essential to the novel as otherwise the elaborate plot might seem too outlandish. As it is, The Incendiary’s Trail is a fast-paced, enjoyable and memorable thriller.’