Mason, author of the YA novel The Last Synapsid, makes his adult debut with an audacious historical thriller. In 1860, Chief Det. Insp. Charles Field, the inspiration for Inspector Bucket in Dickens’s Bleak House, is part of the added security force for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert after several assassination attempts. One day, Field is guarding the route the royal couple’s carriage is taking through London when he spots 18-year-old pickpocket Stevie Patchen, who appears to be holding a weapon. Field tackles Patchen, only to realize that the youth was a decoy. The actual gunman, Philip Rendell, a former bookkeeper, is able to fire only a few stray shots at the carriage before he’s apprehended. In the ensuing confusion, someone cuts Patchen’s throat and removes one ear, leading Field to suspect a conspiracy. The intelligent plot features prominent figures of the time, including Karl Marx, who may have a link to Rendell, and Charles Darwin, whose heretical theory of evolution has unsettled some very powerful men. Wry prose and vivid period detail help make Mason’s speculations feel plausible. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (June)
The real-life Victorian police detective who was the inspiration for Charles Dickens' Mr. Bucket serves as the main character in a fast-paced historical mystery.
Although this is Mason's debut novel for adults, he's an accomplished playwright. Those skills are evident in the crisp dialogue and well-structured scenes of this book. It begins with a bang in 1860 as Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field, assigned to guard Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during a public appearance, witnesses an assassination attempt. The shooter, who's arrested, is mentally ill, but Field quickly begins to suspect the man is just a tool of a conspiracy—one connected to the controversy over the new ideas of the naturalist Charles Darwin. Field's determined pursuit of the truth is sometimes snagged by his celebrity; Dickens fans, including some in the royal family, insist on calling him "Mr. Bucket" and confusing the fictional policeman with the real one. Field persists, however, plunging into a dizzyingly complex plot that takes him all over London and off to Germany. The cast of characters teems with satisfyingly despicable villains, many of them based on real aristocrats and scientists. The most villainous, however, is the memorably terrifying Decimus Cobb, a former choirboy-turned-Victorian-era Hannibal Lecter. Countering Cobb and the other bad guys are the earnestly heroic Field, his resourceful wife, a kidnapped butcher's boy, and Prince Albert, who gets a touchingly human portrayal. There are cameos by such famous figures as Karl Marx, Dickens, and, of course, Darwin. With many grisly murders and many shocking surprises along the way, the book rockets toward a last dark twist.
Careful research, a driving plot, wry wit, and compelling characters make this a most entertaining read.
London in 1860 is the principal setting of Tim Mason’s The Darwin Affair, which evokes the pleasures of such period authors as Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. [A] memorable page-turner. Intellectually stimulating and viscerally exciting, The Darwin Affair is breathtaking from start to stop.”—The Wall Street Journal “A perfect addition to your summer reading list. Fast-paced and lively, this page-turner would appeal to fans of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”—Reader’s Digest “An audacious historical thriller . . . The intelligent plot features prominent figures of the time, including Karl Marx . . . and Charles Darwin, whose heretical theory of evolution has unsettled some very powerful men. Wry prose and vivid period detail help make Mason’s speculations feel plausible.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review “Readers of historical fiction, murder mysteries, action/adventure and thrillers will be equally entertained and perhaps edified: beneath the excitement lie thought-provoking questions about class and order, the interplay of science and religion and intellectual curiosity. The Darwin Affair has it all: thrills, engrossing characters, taut pacing and historical interest.”—Shelf Awareness “Mason’s Dickensian London, layered with gritty, horror-tinged period details and the imaginative interweaving of Typhoid Mary and the underworld’s grave-robbing industry, provides a rare time-traveling experience for historical-mystery readers. The novel shares the edgy appeal of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and Louis Bayard’s Mr. Timothy.” —Booklist, starred review “While readers cheer for Inspector Field, a true-life detective and friend of Charles Dickens, they will inadvertently learn a smattering of history—and enjoy every second of it. Author Tim Mason makes it fun. He writes with authenticity and knows precisely how to keep his audience on the edge of their seats. Oh, and just when you believe he’s about to wrap it up, get comfortable, because he has a whole lot more action in store.”—Bookreporter.com “With many grisly murders and many shocking surprises along the way, the book rockets toward a last dark twist. Careful research, a driving plot, wry wit, and compelling characters make this a most entertaining read.” —Kirkus Reviews “Set in Victorian era London, Tim Mason’s The Darwin Affair is a fantastic and original historical thriller. In fact, this is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in years.”—The Missourian “The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason . . . set in Victorian England of the 1860s . . . grabs the reader and tosses him or her into the middle of an assassination attempt of the Royals—Queen Victoria and Prince Albert . . . [T]he plot unfolds in an exciting dash to save Prince Albert, and bring Decimus Cobb . . . easily the most frightening antagonist since Hannibal Lecter . . . to justice.” —New York Journal of Books “This clever, yeasty detective yarn is like a runaway hansom cab that pauses just long enough to take on passengers ranging from Darwin to Dickens before hurtling onward. It's a grand ride, a serious education and a delightful addiction.” —Louis Bayard, author of Courting Mr. Lincoln “An engaging historic mystery.”—BBC.com “It’s London 1860, and an assassination attempt has been made on Queen Victoria. A block away, a petty thief is killed. But Detective Inspector Charles Field suspects these crimes are related, that the queen wasn’t the real target—and that all of it masks an even more ominous plot.”—NY Post