McCammon is simply amazing. The man takes a decade off from writing in the prime years of his life when many authors hit their stride. You’d think when he came back there would be some rust he’d have to knock off the wheels. Nah, he comes out of the gate with a fury and a vengeance and the first slab of goodness he throws on the table is Speaks the Nightbird. Speaks is so unique in that it provides us with such a wonderful story and characters in a setting that isn’t typically done by the masters of horror. The setting is late 17th century in the Carolina colonies and we’re introduced to a young lad with a penchant for questioning everything. A curious teenage colonial Sherlock Holmes, if you will. I won’t get into the details of Speaks. By now, you should’ve already read it. If not, get your butt off this review and go read it…immediately!
Now, for the rest of you. If you loved Speaks the Nightbird, as much as I did, then you will not be disappointed with Queen of Bedlam. We find Matthew a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and in a new setting. New York City circa 1690s. A town with 5000 inhabitant, all with dreams and aspirations for wealth and prosperity in the new world. But, not all is well in the fledgling colony. A murderer is loose and carving up his victims, one by one, while leaving his calling card, the shape of a diamond carved around the eyes of the murdered. The constables are clueless, but what would you expect from the unqualified blow hards that were appointed by their friends in high places? Matthew, now a clerk for a local magistrate, stumbles across one of the victims moments after he was butchered by The Masker, the name the killer has received from the local start up news sheet. He is plunged head long into the mystery of identifying the unseen murderer. Matthew’s “problem solving” skills are also noticed by Katherine Herrald, the head of a newly started detective agency that has come from London to NYC. Matthew accepts the invitation to join the agency and must pass certain tests to show that he is worthy of the position. What he finds is that there are many mysteries floating around, including the identity of the Queen of Bedlam, an unknown woman who was dropped off at a progressive asylum with the instructions to never try and discover who she really is. For Matthew, all paths seem to lead back to this mysterious woman who is locked up in her own mind. Who is the Masker and is she connected to the murders somehow? Will our young detective get to the bottom of this or will he find himself on the business end of a blade?
The Queen of Bedlam is a wonderful roller coaster ride through the historical world McCammon has created. Matthew is such an engaging character. You constantly root for him around every twist and turn. You cringe and hide your eyes when he’s thrust in harm’s way. I can’t express how good McCammon is at building this colonial world of mystery. One of the questions I do get is “but is it horror?” If you’ve ever read McCammon’s earlier works that put him on the horror map during the 1980s, you know that his “horror stories” all had horrific elements in them, yet they were so much more. The same is true with the Matthew Corbett series. Don’t get caught up in being able to pigeonhole the tales into a nice, neat category. Simply read it. I can’t make it any more plain than that!
5 Carving Knives out of 5
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