A Gathering of Saints

A Gathering of Saints

by Christopher Hyde
     
 

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It's the summer of 1940, and while the Blitz is killing Londoners by the hundreds, a methodical madman is killing them one at a time. In analyzing his MO, Detective Morris Black comes to a startling realization: The murderer seems to have advance knowledge of where the Luftwaffe will be dropping its bombs. Overnight, Black's comparatively simple case of serial

Overview

It's the summer of 1940, and while the Blitz is killing Londoners by the hundreds, a methodical madman is killing them one at a time. In analyzing his MO, Detective Morris Black comes to a startling realization: The murderer seems to have advance knowledge of where the Luftwaffe will be dropping its bombs. Overnight, Black's comparatively simple case of serial murder has exploded into a complex web of espionage. Untangling the threads will force Black to grapple not only with the killer, but also with a vicious Gestapo spy and with the poisonously polite anti-Semitism that runs through the British police force.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A maniacal serial killer known as Queer Jack stalks London during the dark days of the Blitz, engaging the pursuit not only of Scotland Yard but of a highly placed German spy known as The Doctor. That's the premise behind Hyde's densely atomospheric new thriller, his latest after Hard Target (1990). Detective Inspector Morris Black, widowed, brilliant, introspective and Jewish, is "seconded" to MI5 for the duration of the murder investigation. Black's diggings must remain top-secret, because the killer always commits his grisly crimes in locations that are immediately bombed by the Germans. While Black deducts from the evidence and reviews his own haunted past, London turns to smoking ash around him. Meanwhile, a host of additional characters impedes his progress, most notably Katherine Copeland, a volatile American journalist-cum-spy whose assignment is to seduce Black and who ends up getting in the way at the most extraordinary moments. Hyde's scrupulous research and deep knowledge of the political realities surrounding the Blitz make his story utterly convincing, though at times the generous detail grows so thick that it chokes the narrative like a kudzu vine. The procedural elements are perfect, however, with scenes of ghastly carnage rendered so crisply that one can almost smell the fear and death. The final pages, in which Black, The Doctor and the forces of MI5 inevitably converge upon Jack, contain images of gore and tormented madness that can't soon be forgotten. Readers who relish the raw truth of human, and inhuman, history will find here what they are looking for. (July)
Library Journal
Canadian Hyde (Hard Target, Avon, 1992) did an enormous amount of research for this literate thriller, which is based on true events and mostly real people. Nazi planes are bombing London in late 1940, and a serial killer is on the loose. The bodies turn up in the newly bombed areas. How does the murderer know where to place his victims? Scotland Yard's Detective Inspector Morris Black is ordered to find out. He meets communists Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess and writers C.P. Snow and Ian Fleming and is told about the deep secret of Ultra. Meanwhile, he is hunted by a German spy. Hyde has included some horrific scenes that are definitely not for the squeamish, but he keeps the reader turning pages briskly. A romance appears tacked on, as if to make Black more human. The book is not for everyone, but it is well done.Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L.
George Needham
A detective and a psychiatrist work separately to identify and neutralize Queer Jack, a sadist who has murdered at least five people in particularly grisly fashion. What makes this otherwise typical serial-killer novel stand out is its setting: London during the darkest hours of the Battle of Britain. Complicating the investigation is the discovery that the killer is apparently one of the "circle of saints," the small group of intelligence officers who knew the ultimate secret, i.e., the fact that the British had broken the Enigma code and could understand all of Germany's secret messages. Oh, and the psychiatrist is a Nazi spy who numbers among his patients some of these same saints. Hyde effectively sprinkles many real personalities throughout the novel, including Ian Fleming, Guy Burgess, and C. P. Snow. This is a fascinating story but definitely not for the squeamish; the scene in which one of Jack's victims is exhumed and a second autopsy is performed on the corpse will haunt the reader for days.
Victor Emerson
A gripping combination of history, spy story, and mystery....Unrelentingly readable and vividly realistic....Life outside this captivating book simply ceases. -- The Ottawa Citizen
Kirkus Reviews
A baroque, delightfully gruesome serial-killer whodunit set in WW II London.

Known mostly for formula thrillers, Hyde (Black Dragon 1992, etc.) accomplishes a superb turn with his latest, its title referring to a horrific, overwrought religious painting by the campy British romantic John Martin. While nightly Nazi bombings turn vast portions of London into rubble, Detective Inspector Morris Black pursues a serial killer whose bizarrely positioned bisexual victims seem to predict the locations of the next attack. Is Queer Jack, as the killer is known, a mere monster stalking Hyde's Pynchonesque setting, or is he one of the sexually deviant crew that cracked the Nazi Enigma radio code, and thus privy to ghastly information that Whitehall cannot divulge? The story is complicated by an upper-class Nazi spy lurking among the British warlords, an aristocratic cabal that wants to surrender Britain to Hitler, and the fact that Inspector Black, a quiet plodder given to psychic flashes of insight, is Jewish and therefore mistrusted by his mostly anti-Semitic superiors. As if this weren't enough, Hyde adds a rather labored romantic entanglement, as Inspector Black is seduced by Katherine Copeland, a morally conflicted American spy posing as a journalist. The affair leads to a few made-for-cinema scenes with the lovers embracing as bombs explode around them. Fortunately, Hyde's more-is-more plot, his passionately melodramatic prose (a portion of the city that escapes destruction is "a shadowed, somber limbo in the midst of chaos where the dead and those attending them were safe from further harm"), a parade of historical characters who range from the stoic Scotland Yard forensic pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury to a debauched Guy Burgess and a crisply cool Ian Fleming, and the howlingly campy finish on the dome of St. Paul's, nicely overcome any modest lapses.

Well-researched, relentlessly grim, and remarkably evocative of its time and place.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671875817
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
11/01/1997
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.77(h) x 1.22(d)

What People are saying about this

Art McMaster
Hyde's storytelling is pure genius...this is historical fiction at its finest -- entertaining and informative...suspenseful and satisfying.

Meet the Author

Christopher Hyde has written more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction, published in twenty-two countries in thirteen languages. Born in Ottawa, Ontario, he now lives in Point Roberts, Washington, with his wife and two children.

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