It’s February and the countdown begins! Octopus or Octavius Guy and the Case of the Throttled Tragedienne is released on March 1st. It is—as readers will know—the long-awaited follow up to Gooseberry, the first outing for my fourteen-year-old Victorian boy detective. Here’s what some of the critics said about that one:
“A fast-moving, rollicking and compelling read, conjuring up the atmosphere of Victorian London and its underworld.”
“Be prepared for a total immersion—every bit of scene setting, speech, character and historical detail is perfect.”
“One of the most delightful things about Mr Gallagher’s books are the descriptions of the places and development of the characters. I can SEE the streets and places. I love the characters.”
“After reading so many poorly researched Victorian novels recently, it's a welcome change to come across an author who knows the era so well.”
You can read the first few chapters of Octopus as they’re published each Friday on my website in the lead up. If you’re up for writing a review, you can bid for a review copy on LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ February list. Or if reviewing’s not your thing, why not pre-order it at a special, never-to-be-repeated bargain price to be sure to get it first! Gosh, you can even watch the video—well…the video of the cover reveal, featuring images by the great Victorian photographer John Thomson.
So what’s young Gooseberry—real name Octavius—up to this time? When the leading actress dies in mysterious circumstances on stage during a performance of The Duchess of Malfi, our detective feels duty-bound to investigate. Was she murdered or wasn’t she? It’s up to Gooseberry to find out.
Bertha’s back, you’ll be pleased to know, as is Gooseberry’s brother Julius, and, of course, his employer Mr Bruff. Even the younger George gets a look in, as does the senior clerk, Mr Crabbit (yes, he of the receipts and petty cash). There’s a stellar cast of Thespians, a gang of vicious highwaymen, some incompetent policemen, and maybe a confidence trickster or two lurking in the background. Oh, and there’s a man who turns up claiming to be Gooseberry and Julius’s father. Hmmm.
As for locations, no expense has been spared! The backstage dressing rooms of Sadler’s Wells…a memorial service at St Paul’s, the actors’ church in Covent Garden…all the sights and smells and sounds of Smithfield market…the feverish activity at the Prerogative Will Office, where Gooseberry makes the acquaintance of the down-in-the-mouth law clerk Mr Death—well…where else would you expect such an individual to work? Our intrepid detective even organizes a picnic to the far-flung, wild and haunting Hackney Marshes, miles and miles—well, four or five at least—from his London lodgings.
On a serious note, a number of these places and institutions were fated to disappear within the following decade—at least in the form that they took in 1852. The holding pens and slaughterhouses of Smithfield, for example, were relocated to the north of Kings Cross, rather near to where young Gooseberry currently resides. Doctors’ Commons (which ran the Prerogative Will Office where Mr Death works) was disbanded and its operations (for the most part dealing with divorces and the probate of wills) were assigned to ordinary solicitors like Mr Bruff. Bunhill Fields Cemetery, which by 1852 was full to bursting, was closed by an Act of Parliament. Sadler’s Wells was rebuilt, larger and grander than before. The land surrounding the city, which was essentially farmland, was given over to housing as London’s population grew. You can read more about these changes in a brand new set of articles that will be appearing on my website over the next few months.
Octopus is released on Tuesday, March 1st: RRP US$5.99; UK£4.99. The ePub format is available to pre-order now from iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo at a dramatically reduced price. You’ll find links on the Octopus title page.
Finally, as a small token of my thanks for taking the trouble to find this page, I’d like to offer you a copy of my book Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts – An Illustrated Guide to 19th Century Spiritualism. Download it for free from Smashwords.com. When it comes time to pay, just use coupon code: TD22X. A word of warning: opt for the ePub version if that happens to be a format you can use; for technical reasons beyond my control it is vastly superior to the MOBI on offer.
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