The following reviews, comments and questions are from you, the readers. You can always message me using the Contact Me form or send me an email. Both Malane, who designs this website for me, and I really look forward to hearing from you, and I will always try to respond personally if I can. Why not include a photo we can use if we publish?
November 21st, 2018
I've been following your blog on Maria B. Hayden and the response you received from Arle Lommel, with whom I've been in touch, along with other descendants of Maria and William.
I'm a Certified Genealogist and historical writer, and I've been working on a biography of Maria B. Hayden. I expect to have the book out in the Spring of 2019. The book will clear up many misconceptions about Maria and William, as well as tell Maria's life story.
As of yet, I've been unable to find a photograph of Maria, so if any of your readers has a positively identified photograph they'd be willing to share with me, I'd certainly appreciate it. I can be reached through my website.
Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, MFA, CG
SharonCarmack.com OR by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Gallagher replies: If anyone can help Sharon out with a photo, I too would love to use it here on my website. Please do get in touch.
October 25, 2018
Super story, very authentic feel to the location and society of Victorian London. I liked the characters involved and look forward to meeting them again in the next book in the series.
Cate Schofield Amazon UK Reviewer
October 19, 2018
Loved it. It was eerie, as well as funny at times, with great characters, dialogue and an excellent plot. I really liked the Victorian setting and descriptions, the language that the author used added to the overall theme of the story and made it very easy to read.
Lizzie Blaylock was an excellent main character, I really enjoyed her witty internal monologue and various escapades.
Will definitely check out the next book in the series.
Adam Ford Amazon UK Reviewer
October 11, 2018
This Young Adult book is the first story about 13 year-old Lizzie Blaylock, the involuntary Medium. Set in late Victorian London, Lizzie has been fortunate in receiving an education despite the poverty of her family. But this ceases, when a strange fit in the classroom causes teacher, Miss Smutts to expel her. Miss Smutts’ motives are suspect since she arranges employment for Lizzie as a maidservant in a rather odd household. Lizzie’s fit has revealed her special power to allow ghostly manifestations to return from the dead. Soon this gothic novel becomes darker as Lizzie is taken under the wing of Simeon de Florence, who purports to expose false mediums. There is relief from the weird experiences in the humorous characters we meet, such as Miss Otis, the kindly clairvoyant and the obsession with seances by many wealthy Victorians provides an exciting setting. I feel that Lizzie is more like a 20th century heroine in her speech and actions but the Victorian context is vividly described.
Lizanne Lloyd Amazon UK Reviewer
September 25, 2018
Loved this book. Has a Philip Pullman vibe. A nice enthralling holiday read. Lots of historical detail and well written. Will be ordering the next in the series.
Sausage Amazon UK Reviewer
August 17, 2018
This story is set in Victorian London of 1885. A 13-year-old girl named Lizzie Blaylock has fits. Just before her fit she always smells rotting pears and finds herself lying on a beautiful hill of lush green waving grass. It is a place of comfort. It is her astral place and somewhere she feels safe. When she emerges from her fit, those around her are shaken by the unsightly experience. Many saying that ghostly manifestations emerge from her chest. Lizzie loses her place at her school because of this. She is given an opportunity by the teacher to be a young maid at a house close by. From here Lizzie stumbles into a bizarre world of charlatans and well-intentioned people when they witness her having another fit.
There is a scientist/psychic investigator named Simeon de Florence who is fascinated by Lizzie’s powers of a medium. He has exposed false mediums in the past and has an interest in electricity. All for more diabolical projects concerning mediums contacting the dead. There is also Miss Otis, a sort of clairvoyant lady who does medium demonstrations before gatherings of people. Lizzie’s school teacher Mrs Smutts continues to be close at hand with all manner of other interesting characters.
Lizzie begins to realise that her strange powers have consequences and others want to use her for their own ends. Gradually the young girl must come of age via adolescence as a young woman and a medium. Lizzie Blaylock is told that she is a conduit. A bridge linking the real world to that of the dead. She is the Bridge of Dead Things.
If you like medium or strange phenomenon style stories, this is an absolute must! As the story progresses, there are some, around the young girl, who are all caught up in some past diabolical wrongs. I can’t say much more without spoiling the story for a future reader. It will all come to an exciting climax - very gripping and compelling all the way.
C. A. Powell Goodreads Reviewer
Aug 17, 2018
An entertaining YA mystery set in Victorian London.
I've not read the first book in the series but had no problem getting straight into this one.
The central character Octavius is a likable 14-year-old, ex-pickpocket currently working as an office boy (chief investigator) for a local Solicitor. Attending a play with his employer, he witnesses the murder on stage of an old friend. His investigations reveal all is not as it seems.
Reading as an adult I found this a fun, light read. Well-written and researched.
Recommend to fans of historical mysteries.
Diana Febry Goodreads Reviewer
July 04, 2018
Just wanted to drop a line concerning your article on Maria B. Hayden.
You mention that a direct descendant of William Hayden makes the case that he was a “family physician”. That case is semi-accurate. He was certainly a physician (he began practicing in 1848), but his claim to fame was as a creator of medications, and it is unlikely he worked as a family doctor for very long at all.
He founded the New York Pharmaceutical Company (based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, despite its name) around 1865. At one point it was one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., and his fortune derived from that.
His primary product was Hayden’s Viburnum Compound, which was marketed as something of a cure-all for women’s health issues. Intriguingly, it was also billed as a cure for delirium tremens.
Its active ingredient was Viburnum opulus (guelder-rose), which has analgesic properties and a long history of use for uterine complaints. It also contained Dioscorea villosa (wild yam) and Scutellaria lateriflora (blue skullcap).
If you are interested in reading one of his tracts about his compound, it is available online here.
Most of the tract is rather tedious and, by today’s standards, over-wrought, but interesting for the picture it reveals of an individual doggedly fighting to maintain his reputation and protect his market position. It is clearly trying to ride the coattails of then-novel advances in anesthesia by showing that his Compound was second only to that in helping women.
All of this of course is a minor correction that doesn't affect the overall point of your article, but I thought I'd pass this on. (And, since ancestry seems to give some claim to authority, I'll just mention that Maria and William are my great-great-great-grandparents.)
And just for interest, I can add that upon William’s death, a positively Dickensian fate awaited his fortune. His descendants squabbled over his estate, a battle which lasted decades and was only finalized in the 1960s when the vast bulk had been spent on lawyer’s fees. In the end, his living grandchildren each received only a very modest lifetime annuity (I believe it was $15/year, although I could be wrong about the amount), although some of the lawyers who litigated it probably retired in considerable comfort off the remains of the New York Pharmaceutical Company.
[Editor’s note: This email has been edited very, very slightly to make the links appear more natural.]
Michael Gallagher replies: This has to be one of the most interesting an authoritative replies to any of my articles that I’ve ever received, and I’m so pleased it happens to be about William Hayden. I was fascinated to learn about the New York Pharmaceutical Company and Hayden’s Viburnum Compound. Other than to soothe the nerves, I can’t see it doing much to eliminate delirium tremens, but I can imagine it being quite popular today as a mild, natural analgesic. I was just as fascinated to learn about the company’s demise and what became of his estate. Lawyers. Hmmm...
Thank you so much for writing in and bringing this to my attention. If you have no objections, I shall add your letter as an addendum to the online article.
Best wishes always,
May 16, 2017
First off, I’d like to apologize to Mr. Gallagher for taking so long to read and review this book. But assuming that this will be the last of the Adventures of Octavius & Co, I wanted to wait until I was really ready for the story. And then once I started I tried to eke it out for as long as possible. Oh, how I love these books and these people! [Author’s note: Bless you for doing that, but it isn’t the last! Gooseberry’s next adventure is already under way, and there are at least three titles to come after that.]
Like the first two, this is a cracking good story. Octavius and George are on the case to both help a Spiritualist Medium and help Mrs. Crabbit. How are they connected, and why? Octopus has a heart of gold, and so much spunk! I just adore him.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I wanted to say that I was captivated (as usual) by the twists and turns in the story. The writing pulls you along, urging you to turn one more page, then another, then one more, until you have finished the book. Each person in these pages is real to me, so much so that I keep having to stop myself from looking them up online - they’re not really there! - and instead glomming my eyes onto the historical photos of London at the time for far longer than is advised.
Thank you so much for writing these books, and for bringing these characters to life. I have a feeling they'll always be lurking around in my head. (And, after my raving about these books to my reader of a Mom, we're doing a group read of “The Moonstone” before I lend her my Kindle to read this series.) Excellent, excellent, excellent!
Laura Brook LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 25, 2017
I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s a very young detective in a 19th century London, with the experience we have in police TV series to be surprised is difficult, this book is really enjoyable and with a surprising ending.
It’s a good choice for young readers as well old ones like me who enjoy adventures and mystery.
Elizabeth Carrasco LibraryThing Early Reviewer
February 25, 2017
I received a free copy of this ebook as a generous gift from the author with no strings attached or expectations. This review is given freely and completely voluntarily. All thoughts and words are my own.
I loved this book!
This is the third book in the series. While it is helpful to have read the previous books in the series, I feel that it could easily stand alone. I read the previous book in the series and thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
Octavius (aka Octopus) is incredibly likeable and Bertha continues to be my favorite character. I wish we had seen more of her in this book. Octavius, yet again, solves the mystery, while, this time, training George, his apprentice. They make a good team.
There's an American medium and her entourage, a contested will, a nefarious duo, and a murder or two. In a locked room, everyone is a suspect. It's a right muck of a mess, and many things may not be as they seem, but Octavius, with the help of George, solves the crime and saves a life, right in the nick of time!
Once again Michael Gallagher creates a vivid, almost tangible reality in Victorian England. That, with his rich character development, and engaging plot makes this book incredibly enjoyable and downright fun!
I look forward to seeing Octavius Guy (and Bertha!) again and again.
Devon Lewis (The Pinkaholic) Goodreads Reviewer
February 08, 2017
Surprisingly I really enjoyed reading this book – surprisingly because I was almost put off by the title and because it is not my favourite genre. However it was very well written with sufficient detail to transport you to the time and the place. I didn’t warm to Octavius immediately as he seemed rather too sure of himself (like a young Sherlock Holmes) but I found him more engaging as the book went on. For me it was some of the other characters that gave the book its lift - Bertha for example and I loved the interactions with George his reluctant sidekick. All in all, well worth a read.
Suzanne 289 LibraryThing Early Reviewer
February 03, 2017
I absolutely LOVE this book. I will have to read the others in the series. Octavius is a lovable detective with a fun sidekick in George. From exposing mediums to investigating murder and the veracity of an old man's will, you will eagerly go on adventures with this amazing duo.
Liliyana Shadowlyn The Faerie Review, LibraryThing Early Reviewer
February 01, 2017
Well written with a tremendous amount of detail. This book transported me to Dickens’ London for a mystery with a metaphysical twist. I enjoyed the trip but sometimes felt bogged down and needed timeout.
Seaside-Reader LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 17, 2017
I really enjoyed this story by Michael Gallagher. It is set with Octavius Guy as the main character, a detective with his assistant George. Octavius decides that their employer needs their help in his personal life, without the man's knowledge or consent. The two detectives embark on an adventure that uncovers a larger mystery that only the Great Octavius Guy can solve. This was very well written. The story line flowed smoothly with pleasant description & imagery. I enjoyed several of the characters in this story and would gladly read another book by this author.
OtwellS LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 09, 2017
Another wonderful mystery featuring Octavius Guy, aka Gooseberry, as he and his detective-assistant-in-training, George Crump, work to solve a series of murders involving a psychic medium in 19th-century London. When Octavius notes some very unusual behaviour from Mr. Crabbit, the man in charge of reimbursing him for small expenses he incurs through his investigative work for Mr. Bruff, the lawyer that both are employed by, he decides it's a mystery to be solved, and a perfect opportunity to further George's lessons in the art of being a good detective. Through their spying they discover that Mrs. Crabbit has been attending sessions with a very expensive psychic medium in the hopes of contact with her late Uncle, whose estate she had hoped to inherit. To her dismay, the Estate ended up going to the only other living relative, a man that she knew her Uncle disapproved of, and would not have left a penny to. Convinced that the will was forged, Mrs. Crabbit believes that somehow she will be able to contact her Uncle to find evidence of such. Octavius resolves to find a way for him and George to attend the seance in order to learn more, and find a way to help the Crabbits one way or another. When murder occurs in the midst of a ghostly appearance, followed by more murders that seem to tie everything to Mrs. Crabbit's Uncle and his Estate, Octavius is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of what is going on. A former street thief, the young Octavius is wise beyond his years to the ways of the world, as he takes care of his younger brother Julius, and uses his wits, as well as all the resources he has, to find ways around the obstacles that present themselves throughout the investigation. I really enjoyed the interaction between him and George, and getting to know George better, and I love that Bertha has become a regular character in the books. Not only is she Gooseberry's best friend, but provides a wonderful mother figure for his family of outcasts and street folk, showing that kindness and caring can come in the most unexpected ways.
Michael Gallagher's research into 19th-century Spiritualism, and the fascination that many in the Victorian era had for attending seances and fortune telling, is meticulous as always. I enjoyed the notes at the end of the book about some of his real life sources. He weaves many of the details of real life Spiritualists into the story in such a way that the reader truly feels what those who attended such sessions must have felt...the awe, the fear, the fascination at witnessing disembodied heads that glowed with an eerie light, expelling a strange substance explained as "ectoplasm" from which ghostly manifestations could form (or so they said). In a darkened room, those attending would be told to hold hands and not let go, no matter what they saw or heard, for doing so could put the Medium's life in danger, heightening the suspense and anticipation. Even Octavius, with his very clever and rational mind searching for answers on how such things could be happening, shivers with fear when cold ghostly fingers brush the back of his neck, and loud raps signal ghostly answers to questions asked by those in attendance.
I have always found the Victorian obsession with Spiritualism fascinating...both the Spiritualists themselves (and the amazing lengths they would go to in order to convince their audience of the presence of the supernatural), and also those who worked hard to debunk them, and show them for the frauds they were. Octavius is like a young mixture of Sherlock Holmes and Houdini in the way his mind works overtime, sifting through all that he sees, hears, and feels to try to find a rational explanation that he knows must be there. He's a pleasure to read about, and his world is filled with such detail that it's easy to imagine it all in your head. Heartwarming and humorous, with lots of suspense, it kept me guessing right through to the end. :-)
Suzy Schettler Goodreads Reviewer
January 05, 2017
Octavius is at it again! With a less than enthusiastic assistant of George at his side, my favorite Victorian boy investigator sets off to solve a new mystery. Discovering what is behind Mr. Crabbit’s distraction leads them straight to a murder.
Words cannot describe just how much I enjoy Octavius. He is confident (perhaps too much so) and he is not about to let anything slow him down. I think my favorite part is the interaction between him and George. His friend has his own life and isn’t in a hurry to let Octavius charge in and take over.
The mystery is paced extremely well and kept me guessing to the end.
If you’ve read any of Octavius’ adventures before, or just enjoy a clever Victorian tale, this is definitely the series for you.
Bethany Swafford (The Quiet Reader) Goodreads Reviewer
December 29, 2016
Octavius Guy, aka Octopus or Gooseberry, is a 15-year-old errand boy working in a 19thC London law firm. Formerly a street urchin and pickpocket he is both exceptionally bright and rather cocky, having taken it upon himself to train an older boy in the art of detection at which he considers himself expert. In his third case, Octavius and his “apprentice” George investigate a medium with whom their office manager’s wife has become obsessed. Through the several deaths that follow the two young men unravel not only the medium’s techniques but also the motive, method, and opportunity behind an inheritance fraud. This is an excellent period piece that incorporates consideration of ethnic and gender bias as well as the consequences of the characters’ good-hearted or flawed natures.
amac121212 LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 21, 2016
The author (very nice person, I've e-mailed with him), was so kind as to send me this book through LibraryThing.
I liked it as much as the previous one in the series, a nice Victorian mystery with the main character Octavius/Gooseberry evolving little by little into adulthood, to become a good young man and investigator, I should think. And all the other characters accompany very well.
The case of the medium itself made me think of Houdini, a few decades later, when he, a great illusionist, exposed all the tricks of a lot of fraudulent mediums, and his controversy with Doyle, more of a believer in spiritualism (and fairies, but that's another story). And yes, she is mendacious. Or not always?
Quite well documented (I learnt several interesting things). And a few very nice illustrations/drawings of buildings and landscapes, to top it all. Very enjoyable for me, as a lover of the Victorian Era. Five stars.
Mrs. Hudson LibraryThing Reviewer
December 15, 2016
I received an early review e-copy of this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. There is a murder during the séance that Octavius and George are attending as they follow the activities of Mrs. Crabbit. Octavius is the chief investigator and George is his assistant but at times Octavius seems to think George is getting a little too big for his britches and there seems to be something strange going on with George. This is a wonderful Dickensian era murder mystery. The ragtag bunch of friends that Octavius has add a great deal to the story and as always are enjoyable especially Bertha and the time spent at the improved Bucket of Blood. This book is the third book in the series but can also be read as a standalone. As always Michael Gallagher is an excellent storyteller and writes a great murder mystery set in Victorian times with a few funny and unexpected twists. This is a keeper and well worth the read.
I ADAM LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 09, 2016
A lively, well written mystery set in Dickens' and Wilkie Collins' London. Filled with period details and with a mystery within a mystery, this is a fun quick read with quirky characters. The story is told from the point of view of Octavius Guy (alias Gooseberry and Octopus), a 15-year-old detective with an Artful Dodger-style past who is convinced of his own powers of deduction. With the assistance of his not-so-faithful sidekick/apprentice, George Crump, he sets out to solve one mystery and swiftly finds himself faced with another mystery and then another. How he solves them all is a joy to read. I am now looking for the first two books in the series because Octavius Guy is a detective definitely worth following!
flusteredduck LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 02, 2016
Another fascinating and enticing 5 star read from Michael Gallagher featuring Octavius Guy. When I read a book by Michael Gallagher I am transported back in time to a Dickensian era. The language is perfect for an intriguing murder mystery.
Octavius may not be smarter than the average fifteen year old but he most definitely is more observant and gives far more thought to what he observes. Being a chief investigator, he feels it is time he takes on an apprentice. George shows promise. At times, more promise than Gooseberry appreciates.
This tale will appeal to any Sherlock Holmes fans or Houdini fans. The main event centers around a Spiritualist and two people who may or may not want her to speak to the dead. Someone does not want to take a chance that a voice from beyond will ruin their living future.
Favorite supporting characters from previous books make their presence known as well. We get to spend time at the improved Bucket of Blood with Bertha and her boys.
This book does well as a stand alone but I know you will enjoy every book in this series.
Bonuses at the end are amazing!
Laura Reading (Laura in Wisconsin) Goodreads Reviewer
July 29, 2016
In short, this book is wonderful! The story of Octavius, or Octopus, his younger brother, his friend Bertha/Bertram, and the mystery of who killed his friend was such a delightful romp through the streets of 1850s London. The characters are fantastic, they feel real, and the whole book just sucks you in from the first word. Everything about this book feels real, actually, and I had to keep reminding myself not to google for photographs of the characters. This was such a surprising read, not only in the excellency of the story and story-telling, but also in who the actual murderer was. One of my favorite books this year, hands down. And I've already purchased the rest of the author's catalog, something that rarely happens for me. Thank you so very much to LT, the LTER program, and to the author and publisher for the outstanding gift that was this book!
Laura Brook LibraryThing Early Reviewer
June 25, 2016
An historical fiction detective story taking place in 1850’s London. The main character is a 14 year old, who has become the kingpin of the criminal underworld, but also works as an investigator for a lawyer. Had me hooked from the start. Great story and easy to read. Thank you Michael Gallagher and LibraryThing. 4 1/2 stars.
John Tatum LibraryThing Early Reviewer
May 26, 2016
Surprisingly good, despite the fact that the PI, Gooseberry, is only 14. I will read the others in the series.
Simon Horn LibraryThing Early Reviewer
May 05, 2016
Very amusing book about Octavius Guy, a fourteen year old boy in the Victorian age who is a detective. His newest investigation is about the murder of the leading actress on stage during a performance of “The Duchess of Malfi” at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. I liked it.
Bigger review (in Dutch) on http://alimolenaar.nl/stukjes/theater-en-romans-octopus/
Ali Molenaar LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 26, 2016
Here is a sensational historical fiction who-dunnit that gives nothing away until the very end. To me, it reads like an old time radio show. It leaves you breathless. It begins with Octopus, a 14-year old who is London's “swiftest, slipperiest pickpocket” that also goes by his boss, Mr. Bruff’s nickname: Gooseberry. He is Mr. Octavius Guy. His younger brother’s name is Julius. Octopus is also a kingpin of the underground.
Octavius gets to attend the theatre with Mr. Bruff and two of his colleagues. He finally gets to see his old friend, Miss Isabella Prynn, the actress who plays “The Duchess of Malfi” that evening. When three men are supposed to strangle her character in the play, she gets strangled to death for real. That is when Octopus gets promoted to Chief Investigator for “Mr. Matthew Bruff of Gray’s Inn Square, one of London’s foremost solicitors”. It is his duty to find Miss Prynn’s murderer.
This is a truly inviting story of intrigue and mayhem. Octavius and his brother also have to deal with their dear ole da’, who abandoned them when Julius was just a baby. You will have loads of fun reading this, and finding out what truly happened the night of Miss Prynn’s demise.
Thank you to Mr. Michael Gallagher, Seventh Rainbow Publishing and LibraryThing for giving me a copy of this book to read and give my honest review.
Connie A. LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 26, 2016
I loved this story!
Octavius Guy, aka The Octopus, formerly a pickpocket, now a private investigator is visiting the London theatre where The Duchess of Malfi is being staged.
Unfortunately one of the actresses previously known to him, a Miss Prynn, is found strangled and he sets about attempting to solve the murder.
A wonderful Victorian melodrama!
I will look out for more from this series.
I won a digital copy of this book from Librarything via the author in return for an honest unbiased review, which I am very happy to do.
Eileen LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 18, 2016
I somehow missed the fact that this was the second book in a series, so I found myself a bit confused by some of Octopus’ actions and how he could be the leader of the underworld and yet be so naive. I went with it, though, and found him more endearing with each page. (I also got it at the end when he very cleverly extracted himself from an odious and uncomfortable position.) This was a beautifully written book and played like a movie in my head. I could see, hear, and smell everything in the book. It was very hard to put down.
Beth McManus (alanbethcam) LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 18, 2016
This book got me entranced from the start.
The writer managed to whisk me to a Dickensian era with fabulous descriptions. I want to read more :)
Although it is unlikely that a 14 year old would be a chief investigator and would Bertha really be accepted at that time, I will forgive that for such a compelling novel.
Did I solve the puzzle - no, but I enjoyed every minute of Octopus’s investigations.
LizzieKillin (Liz Stevens) LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 15, 2016
For those who hanker for a whodunit played out in the streets of Victorian England, this is a must read. Follow the footsteps of protagonist Octavius, aka Gooseberry, through the narrow lanes that harbour cut throats, confidence men, thieves and just plain odd characters that sport Dickensian names.
As a narrator, Octavius, entertains the reader with his wry sense of humour and his penchant for understatement. His cross dressing sidekick Bertram, aka Bertha, provides loyalty and humour throughout the tale.
Young adults will find the story full of plot twists and adventure. It will be hard to put the book down.
Ann Towell LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 13, 2016
This was a very entertaining read, I enjoyed it greatly. The characters are vivid and the descriptions of Victorian London atmospheric. I particularly enjoyed the cross dressing flower seller, Bertha, who is treated as just another character and not made to be a caricature.
The plot is complex and at times could perhaps be better explained - not spelled out but just could be a bit clearer re: connections - then again I don't read much crime fiction and so not used to following the twists and turns! Love the cover photo and the links at the end to the book that it was taken from. You even get some recipes thrown in for good measure!
Linda Timms LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 06, 2016
I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a clever and pleasant Victorian era mystery. Gooseberry and his main circle of family and friends are colorful and likeable. The picture of Victorian life in London is well done and the details of daily life are interesting. Gooseberry’s narration is engaging and often slyly funny.
I did read the first book in the series first, which wasn’t necessary, but I think knowing the characters’ backgrounds made this one more enjoyable.
The only small drawback was that the ending seemed a little bit too convoluted or maybe just oddly paced to me.
Rosapoma LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 02, 2016
This is a delightful read for any age. I liked it so well, that I intend to read more in this series.
Aleta Sullivan LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 01, 2016
This book is a thrilling sequel to the first in the series. Octavius is an intelligent, cunning, and honorable character with enough edge that reader enjoys following him on his investigations. His double life also makes his tale compelling and exciting to follow. He is also surrounded by comical supporting characters that create an eclectic family. At times the story seems a bit choppy especially when Octavius figures something out. The reader is not aware of the connection until Octavius follows it through. The boys’ father showing up seemed out of the blue, but the author takes care of that loose strand in the epilogue which helps. It also feels like the first part of the epilogue should have been a last chapter instead. Leaving the final epilogue piece to relay what life is like after the story. Overall, a great piece of mystery historical fiction that many readers will enjoy!!
Sarah Leonard Miller LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 29, 2016
I too was lucky enough to read this through Library Thing. This book should be on your reading list if you wish Wilkie Collins were here today offering us immersion in his London with compelling mystery, unexpected wonderful characters, and a story length that suits our modern pace. If you’re saying Wilkie who? No worries. Start here and follow this author. Historical fact is deftly combined with fiction that makes Octavius’s world a new form of old London that I am eager to visit again. Pour some tea or a wee dram, put your feet up, and enjoy cover to cover.
Gladread LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 29, 2016
An amusing and fun read. Octavius Guy, aka Octopus, is a clever young fellow trying to better himself through a legitimate career as an investigator but runs into sometimes funny, sometimes dangerous incidents in his side career as chief of his underground turf in Victorian London. Octopus relies on his wits and his friends to help him solve the murder of a good friend and actress, as well as resolving personal issues, including an erstwhile father who shows up out of nowhere. A kingpin orphan just can’t get a break some days. The lead character is cheering and endearing, and the plot ties up nicely.
Reading Fury LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 29, 2016
This was a fun, Dickensian mystery with fakeouts and plot twists and clever dialogue. I especially appreciated the inclusion of Bertha and the narrator’s complete acceptance of his/her gender identity. You don't often find books set in contemporary times where that is the case so it was especially refreshing to see such acceptance and support in Victorian London.
Heather Tannenbaum LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 27, 2016
Octavius “Gooseberry” “Octopus” Guy is not only a regular 14 year old boy in Victorian England. He is also chief investigator for a well-known solicitor and kingpin of the London Underground. When a friend from his younger days dies on stage, he cannot let the matter rest and starts his own investigation. But just then an old man, claiming to be his father turns up, making his personal life all the more complicated.
Michael Gallagher creates a very vivid, accurate and believable image of Victorian London and especially of the quarters where the poorer residents try to forge out a living.
Gooseberry’s adventures are very entertaining and the plot is fascinating with subterfuge, confidence tricks and plenty of drama.
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review and I’m very happy to say that I enjoyed the experience a lot! I can highly recommend this book to anyone fascinated by Victorian mysteries.
David Eggerschwiler (pratchettfan) LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 23, 2016
Just when I thought I was getting a handle on the layers of this story, it would take off in another direction, adding yet another layer to the intrigue.
He’s a clever young man who wants to leave behind his “sordid” past and make a place for himself in proper society. His past, however, has an inconvenient way of regularly showing up and pushing in to his life.
He handles it all well and with great cleverness.
The cast of characters is a wondrous mix of unlikely folks.
Even a dog!
Libby Dodd Goodreads Reviewer
March 21, 2016
Octopus was an enjoyable read. Although it is the second book in the series (I haven’t read the first, but I’d like to), it easily stood alone.
The character development was rich. I LOVED Bertha/Bertram. I wanted to be her friend. I also enjoyed the characters of Julius and Octavius/Octopus/Gooseberry. I know children matured faster back then, especially orphaned/homeless children, but I did feel like Octavius was a bit mature for his age. For me, it would have been much more believable had he been even two years older (16).
I read a lot of mysteries and historical fiction and Octopus didn’t disappoint. Gallagher sets a rich scene in Victorian England. The mystery wasn’t totally predictable, nor was it overly complicated. The only quibble I had was that it was a little difficult to keep track of who was whom with the players in the mystery toward the end of the book when the mystery was being solved.
Again, this book was very enjoyable. I found myself reading long into the night not wanting to put it down. I want to read the first book in the series and I certainly hope there’s a third! If you like your mysteries on the cozy side and your characters loveable, read this book! You won’t be disappointed.
I received a free copy of the ebook for my honest review and all words and opinions are my own.
Devon Lewis LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 20, 2016
I was lucky to receive this book as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers, and I am happy to say it was totally worth the read, I liked it very much.
I love Victorian mysteries in general and Sherlock Holmes in particular. The action of this book takes place a few decades before Holmes, but it’s all there nonetheless. Gooseberry could perfectly be the leader of the “irregulars” of Baker Street, the ragamuffins that helped Sherlock.
It’s the second book in the Octavius/Gooseberry series. I haven’t read the first, though I would like to, but could understand and follow this second one without difficulty.
I liked the fact that Octopus/Octavius/Gooseberry is a criminal overlord, retired pickpocket, etc., but, at the same time is only 14, wants to leave “the life”, he loves his little brother Julius and wants the best for him, and his friend “Bertha” (great character by the way, though the slang “palari” he/she speaks is not always easy to follow, but the author provides a little vocabulary of it at the beginning), and cares for his boss and protector enough (well intentioned but less savvy) to wean him off cocaine in a very ingenious way.
The ambience of Saint Paul’s flower stalls (My Fair Lady), the world of Victorian theater, is all very well captured. All the book is full of very nice, and realistic sounding touches (the dog, their would-be father, their origin...).
The author has another Victorian character, a young girl medium (my e-book has the first chapter of her first novel) which should be a very nice read too.
Mrs. Hudson LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 17, 2016
Octavius Guy has a great deal to manage, but this intrepid fourteen year old is up to the challenge! To ferret out the true criminal behind the death of an actress, Octavius uses all his wits to navigate the false clues and deceptions that present themselves.
Whenever I come into the middle of a series without reading the first book, I’m always a little fearful of being left confused. Not so with this book! The reader is given enough information to give them a good foundation for these characters without being bogged down by repetition. In fact, just enough detail is given that I WANT to go find the first book posthaste.
Octavius Guy, or Gooseberry as he is occasionally called, is an engaging and amusing character. The surrounding cast is equally entertaining. The mystery kept me on my toes and guessing, which I love.
A fantastic book for detective fans and lovers of the Victorian Era.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Bethany Swafford (The Quiet Reader) LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 09, 2016
London, Thursday July 1, 1852, 9:30 pm. The story begins with the play, The Duchess of Malfi. Miss Prynn, leading actress dies mysteriously during the performance. This is the case for the investigator and his partner. Gooseberry (aka Octopus) is a 14 year old detective to the lower class. His partner, the man he works for Mr. Tuttle. Gooseberry noticed 4 executioners in the play, but only 3 present to be questioned by police. This suggests foul play! Someone disguised himself in order to strangle Miss Prynn! The police dismiss Gooseberry as a menace. So he goes searching for clues. Prior to the murder, we are introduced to the tricksters, pickpockets and people who once were someone else. I was getting excited reading a good old fashioned detective mystery. The descriptive time generation setting is like living in that era through the characters in the book! Gooseberry and Mr. Tuttle soon discover a whole array of clues. Miss Prynn was involved in a huge scam, and also had a will which indicated she was married. Up until now the book has your belief on other characters being guilty. A jump forward to locate Miss Prynn’s sister and her house lead the storyline to an unexpected direction. A grand scheme, and series of planned events by the murderer. Had the villain been so clever perhaps the ending would have him getting away with the perfect crime. Alas, the ill fated ending. Leaving us with three suspects. Even worse, the man appearing upon Gooseberry’s doorstep claiming to be his father. He must prove this to not be true! The rest is for you to read and figure out along the way. Part of the fun, I say. A great story, loads of characters with charisma and depth. Setting is magnificently throughout and described. I felt included in the scenarios. The plot twists were my favorite. I give this book four stars out of 5. Great job! I received this book in exchange for an unbiased and honest review. Kris.
Kris Metoyer (silencenomore) LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 06, 2016
The second book of this series I liked very much. I like the main character Octopus/Gooseberry and his friends/family. This time he must solve the puzzle of the murder of an actress and her husband. Although all the major characters are present from the outset, it needs its time until you feel who the real killer is. In another the supposedly biological father makes contact with him and his brother. This is another mystery which Octopus has to solve, because he does not trust this running up. In addition, he has the image of a crime boss finally get rid of, because he otherwise is no more trusted as chief investigator. But he finds an optimal solution for all related to him.
I hope that this series is continued.
Barbara Heckendorn Smashwords Reviewer
March 04, 2016
I received this book in return for my honest review, and I have to say that I absolutely loved it!
I really enjoyed the first book Gooseberry, that introduced us to young Octavius Guy, former pickpocket on the streets of 19th century London, now Chief-Investigator for a reputable solicitor, but this sequel was even better!!
Octavius, also known as Gooseberry for his bulging eyes, or Octopus (by the criminal set) due to his skills as a pickpocket, finds himself thrust into the investigation of an unusual murder that happens in front of an audience of rapt theatre-goers. When Octavius attends a play with his employer and some of his clients, he realizes that the lead actress is someone he knows, a confidence trickster from years ago. She had helped Gooseberry with his baby brother, after his mother's death, and he was thrilled to see that she had found a way, like him, out of "the Life" and had a new name and a successful career. He saw the fear in her eyes when they were introduced prior to the play, but she had nothing to fear from Gooseberry, who was happy for her, and would never reveal her criminal past, playing along as if they were meeting for the first time. During the play, however, there is a scene in which the actress, Miss Prynn, is strangled by Monks wearing costumes that hide their faces. She is supposed to rise from the dead to speak a few more lines, but instead the actress lies still. A co-actor screams for a doctor, and one rushes up to the stage and after examining her announces that she is, in fact, dead! This set into motion a thrilling investigation with all kinds of twists and turns, as Gooseberry is determined to get to the bottom of what happened and who is responsible!
In addition to his investigating, Gooseberry also has the burden of now being head of the criminal underworld by the odd rules employed in that world and uses this to his advantage as much as possible in his investigating. The additional burden of such demands, however, prove difficult to manage and he realizes that he has to find some solutions for this double life he's living, which he manages to do in spectacular fashion to the benefit of many. While at first glance, a 14 year old sleuth and leader of street crime in London's underworld might seem far-fetched by today's perspective, the children growing up on the streets of Victorian London had to grow up quickly and learn to be tough just to survive. They were hardened by life at such a young age that they really weren't children, especially by the time they were Gooseberry's age. The instinct to read people and find ways to get what they needed were often required to survive on the streets, where the weak were easily picked off and taken advantage of. Gooseberry is young, but he is very smart, intuitive and tough when he needs to be, as the choices he makes at the end of the book with regards to justice and the death sentence clearly show.
Octavius is such an interesting character, and the book is set in such a fascinating time in London's history. I enjoyed learning more about the less respectable London and the people who lived there, and the slang was fun! I loved that some of it was simply the word spelled and pronounced backwards! Gooseberry has a foot in both worlds, which gives the reader an very interesting perspective on how the social classes worked at the time and how viewed one another. For those scraping by on the streets, like Gooseberry had, it was such a dangerous and difficult time of living hungry and being desperate. This was especially true for women and young children, who often had to make money in any way they could just to eat. Gooseberry doesn't judge them harshly for this because he recognizes that there is little choice when you are poor and hungry with no other resources. I liked that the book showed that in spite of their poor circumstances, these people found small pleasures in their lives and cared for one another when they could. The upper classes simply did not want to see or associate with those of such criminal background, if they thought of them at all beyond turning their nose up at them. Gooseberry was fortunate that his employer was able to see that he had something to offer despite a criminal past, which was why it was so crucial to Gooseberry that his kept his current activities with the underworld hidden.
I think bringing Octavius and Julius's father into the story helped to illustrate, even more, what it must have been like for many children of the time who were born to single mothers, many of whom had to sell themselves to feed their children. His appearance in their small flat shows the reader how incredibly poor they were, even with all three of them - Gooseberry, Julius and Bertha - working from morning till night. They had no beds to sleep on, and simply had to find room on the floor to lay out a bedroll. When Gooseberry's brother wants to bring a stray dog inside to keep as a pet, it's a difficult decision because there is so little room and so little food to go around, but Gooseberry realizes that Julius needs a friend and allows it. His father's appearance also prompts him to find out more about his own background and he comes to see that family doesn't have to be about blood, but rather can be a family you create for yourself of those you care about and who care. A lot of difficult and emotional topics are explored alongside the murder mystery, and I found myself reflecting on how lucky we are to have the social services we have today, and how hopeless life must have felt for so many during Gooseberry's time. I think the book gives us a deeper understanding of many of the characters and their motivations. Some, like Octavius, strive to rise above the criminal life, and if presented, take the opportunity to try to make something of themselves in the respectable world. But their past activities and associations are always there in the background, waiting to drag them back down.
A good mystery that kept me guessing. I wasn't sure who and why until the very end! A good read and highly recommended!
Suzy Schettler Goodreads Reviewer
March 01, 2016
While you do not need to read Gooseberry before you read Octopus, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of each. Clearly readers of Dickens and similar Victorian era themed mysteries must enjoy the talented prose of author Michael Gallagher. It is exceptionally well researched. The dialogue flows colorfully with amusing turns of phrase. Octopus is a scholarly murder mystery without being staid.
I believe those who enjoy television investigative series as varied as Leverage, Castle and Elementary will be delighted with this series and want to devour more. Those who appreciate an engrossing night of theatre, finding themselves lost in suspended disbelief, will find both Gooseberry and Octopus to be exciting pageturners.
This is not a simple mystery. It is a masterpiece of misdirection and layers of creative storytelling. There is depth to the characters and plot. DON’T HESITATE! Trust me. Buy the books!
Dogsmom (Laura in Wisconsin) Amazon.com Reviewer
March 01, 2016
Last year I read and LOVED 'Gooseberry: The Case of The Thieving Maharajah'. Since then, I have been waiting as patiently as possible for author Michael Gallagher to release the next in the series.
What's it about?
14 year old Octavius Guy is known to his colleagues as 'Gooseberry' (on account of his bulging 'ogles') and by London's criminal fraternity as Octopus (on account of his notorious pickpocketing skills). He's enjoying his role as solicitor Matthew Bruff's newly-appointed Chief Investigator when he's sufficiently lucky to witness a performance of 'The Duchess of Malfi' at Sadler's Wells. Or at least, he's lucky enough to witness two thirds of the perfomance. Then the leading lady dies. Yes, yes, the Duchess is meant to die...but the actress who's playing her isn't.
Gooseberry is especially horrified because he knows Miss Prynn personally. Or at least, he used to, back when she was called Bella and led a life of crime. And of course, he really ought to know all about what she's doing now, as he's currently leader of London's criminal gangs, albeit a reluctant one. Immediately resolving to investigate, Gooseberry dashes into the backstage area, seeking clues and ruffling feathers in his attempts to uncover the truth. After all, even if he wasn't personally motivated, this sure beats tracking down rich old lady's cats.
And if solving a crime without seeking support from England's fledgling police force, or confessing to your employer that London's criminal underclasses are supposed to answer directly to you, doesn't sound tricky enough, a man arrives unannounced in the house Gooseberry shares with his younger brother, Julius, and friend, Bertha, claiming to be Gooseberry's father. But is he? And how can Gooseberry find out?
What's it like?
Immediately engaging. Oddly sweet. Occasionally ludicrous.
Gooseberry's voice is one of the novel's greatest strengths; his candour and enthusiasm are delightful. On the subject of legal matters he notes that it is, 'Best not to ask, I always think…they might try to tell you!'
He continues to try to protect his employer from the realities of life in Victorian England for children, playing along with Mr Bruff's bizarre notion that the cross-dressing (but obviously male) Bertha is Gooseberry and Julius' mother and generally shielding him from things it's best he remains ignorant of, such as the exact nature of the play Gooseberry is so keen to see. He focused on the fame of the leading actress while, 'purposely skirting around the play’s rather bloodthirsty nature; it was bound to offend Mr Bruff’s quaint notions of what were and what were not suitable topics for discussion where a fourteen-year-old boy was concerned.'
It is similarly amusing that he feels Webster's play to be short on death and bloodthirstiness. Indeed, he begins to 'despair' at the lack of blood and gore, reflecting that although the Duchess got upset over the purported bodies of her children and husband, Gooseberry feels that, 'as waxworks, they can hardly be included in the final body count, now can they?' This is, to say the least, not a criticism typically levelled at John Webster. At least Gooseberry would approve of this book: Miss Prynn is murdered in the prologue, giving a nicely bloodthirsty opening. Though in hindsight, I can anticipate his complaint…
What's to like?
Gooseberry's enthusiasm, vibrant narration and diligent attempts to solve the case. The irony inherent in Gooseberry's involvement. The echoes from 'The Duchess of Malfi'. (Although I did reread Webster's work as preparation for this and felt on reflection that it was unnecessary; reading a summary would have sufficed.)
I love Gooseberry's enjoyment of language and his (occasionally erroneous) definitions that pop up occasionally:
'I should perhaps explain that “cursory” has nothing to do with cursing, no matter how similar the words may look. It’s more about having insufficient time to do a job thoroughly or, as was the case here, insufficient jurisdiction and experience.'
There's a wonderful mixture of pomposity and innocence, knowledge and ignorance, that makes his narration a pleasure to read.
What's not to like?
Hmm. The idea that Gooseberry has unwillingly become the head of London's criminal underworld defies belief. Of course, it's arguable that a 14 year old sleuth / Chief Investigator isn't exactly realistic anyway, (certainly Mr Bruff keeps nearly referring to his erstwhile investigator as a mere 'office boy',) but I can only suspend my disbelief so far and found - although it certainly allowed for some wonderful comic moments - that this new role was a touch too silly for my liking.
When I first finished this I wasn't sure I had enjoyed it as much as its predecessor. There seemed to be more minor niggles (did I really care whether or not this lazy Scotsman was Gooseberry's dad? Why is a dog involved?) and the pace felt slightly 'off' (there are three chapters of epilogue).
However, now that I've had a few days to reflect on the final text as a whole, I feel much more positive again. I always appreciate a story where the threads all come together, and when Gooseberry finally gets it right, everything works out just perfectly. The ending is quite lovely and I'm once more genuinely excited for Gooseberry's next outing - perhaps with the older George as a kind of Dr Watson figure?
Recommended for fans of Victorian fiction, crime fiction and revenge tragedy. But. Read 'Gooseberry' first. Thanks to the author for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Emma Hamilton buriedunderbooks.co.uk LibraryThing Reviewer
February 26, 2016
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This is another interesting and very entertaining story about the further adventures of 14-year-old Octavius Guy, also known as Gooseberry, as he investigates the death of a leading actress who dies on stage under mysterious circumstances. She is also a former cohort in his previous life. Gooseberry has now been promoted to the solicitor’s Chief Investigator but, though a reformed pickpocket, is still the criminal overlord managing London’s criminal underclass. Bertha who has a flower stand in the market is a very interesting character that adds a great deal of color to the story. The setting is London during the Victorian era. I really enjoy the way the author writes and the subtle humor he uses throughout the book. Again the author includes a very helpful glossary of Palari terms at the beginning of the book. The story held my attention right up until the end. Although this book stands alone and is a complete story in itself it might be beneficial to read “Gooseberry,” the first book in the Send for Octavius Guy chronicles for background info on Gooseberry. I recommend this very entertaining book.
I ADAM Goodreads Reviewer
April 08, 2015
Sometimes you see a book and just know you're going to love it.
That's how I felt when I spotted 'Gooseberry' by Michael Gallagher on Librarything. The fact that I had yet to read either Wilkie Collins' 'The Moonstone', which is the inspiration and touchstone for Gallagher's novel, or anything previously written by Gallagher himself, was deemed irrelevant and swept aside. I had thoroughly enjoyed Wilkie Collins' 'The Woman in White' and I am rather partial to a good detective story, so what could possibly go wrong?
Presumably Librarything's secret algorithms felt the same way since they kindly gave me a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)
What's it about?
In 1852, three years after the events depicted in 'The Moonstone', an odd event befalls Mrs Rachel Blake and her mother. Out in town one day, a gang of street children surround them and frighten them badly. When they reach the safety of their home, they realise that, rather than robbing them, the children appear to have gifted them a small photograph of a young Indian boy.
Perplexed, they turn to their lawyer, Mr Bruff, to solve the mystery. He, in turn, involves the eponymous 'Gooseberry', a young clerk with a knack for detection. The novel follows Gooseberry's first person perspective as he investigates what gradually transpires to be a criminal attempt to steal a precious diamond. In the process, the reader is given a different perspective on several characters who originally featured in Collins' novel.
What's it like?
An absolute treat for fans of Collins' novel and a successful novel in its own right.
It does begin slightly unpromisingly, to my mind. There's a glossary of street slang, which always suggests to me that I'm going to become sufficiently lost to require a translation. (After all, if the words were comprehensible from their context, which arguably they should be in a decently written story, why would anyone bother including a glossary?)
However, once I moved past this and Gooseberry's narrative began I was hooked. Events develop intriguingly, characters are well fleshed-out and there're plenty of humorous touches.
How does it relate to the original?
Very neatly. Characters are consistent in background, attitude and, well, character, so readers will be unsurprised to find the former Miss Rachel instructing Mr Frank[lin], or Gabriel Betteredge quoting Robinson Crusoe. Little links to the original text (such as Mrs Merridew's dislike of explosions) make this a pleasure to read as a follow-up, but Gallagher's choice of narrator allows him to adopt a slightly different viewpoint.
Where Collins was content to poke fun at some of his lower class characters for their idiosyncrasies, Gallagher uses Gooseberry to reveal the naïveté and selfishness of the aristocracy. This is done in a light hearted but very revealing manner, as when Gooseberry is overlooked once again by the gentleman of the house and reflects that: "either Mr Blake suffered from the most rotten eyesight, or he'd been trained from birth not to notice his lessers." I particularly enjoyed Mr Bruff's relationship with Gooseberry; Gooseberry looks on his superior's naivety fondly and takes care not to shock him.
There was plenty of sly humour in the original, but from this new perspective Mr and Mrs Blake lack street smarts and appear slightly silly when refusing to believe Gooseberry was once a thief, (and a very skilful one at that,) then again for not realising that one particularly colourful character, 'Big Bertha', is actually a man. I enjoyed this new perspective and feel it helps to give an otherwise very Victorian novel a thoroughly modern feel.
Although he avoids the multiple narrators used by Collins, Gallagher retains the sense of documentary inherent in the original by having characters report events they have witnessed to others. Fortunately Gooseberry is usually central to proceedings [so] there are still plenty of dramatic moments.
This is a very modern book - it was originally serialised on Goodreads as Gallagher was writing it prior to being edited for publication as a whole - and a very Victorian one: serialisation was, of course, how popular writers including Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins originally published their novels.
Gallagher creates a good sense of place and time without seeming to bury readers under a mountain of obvious research. Gooseberry refers frequently to London's changing geography and recent history: he wonders what happened to the panes of glass from the Great Exhibition, comments on the route the drovers take to market and on where the international train station will be built, and visits the newly-built Thames tunnel.
I did read 'The Moonstone' prior to reading 'Gooseberry' and my knowledge of the original events / characters certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the latter book, but if you aren't familiar with the original or if your memory's just a little rusty on the details, it is entirely possible and still enjoyable to read this as a standalone novel.
Emma Hamilton buriedunderbooks.co.uk LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 28, 2015
I got the two Involuntary Medium books as a gift from a friend last year, and I have got to say, these books are unlike any other I have read, the language is very good and easy to read, the story is exiting, and the characters are captivating, and both books are almost impossible to put down. The only bad thing about them is that I would like them to be even longer! Can't wait for the next books in the series!
Helene Gårdsvold (Helene sent the above review through the Contact Me form; she also posted five star reviews for them both at Amazon.com)
February 02, 2015
This MG novel has broad appeal and a very engaging story full of psychics and ghosts and Victorian technology. I cannot wait to read the next installment of the Lizzie Blaylock series.
Ricki readingchallenged.blogspot.co.uk Goodreads Reviewer
January 04, 2015
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this ebook through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers and I'm so glad because I absolutely loved it! The characters, derived from Wilkie Collins classic The Moonstone, really came to life for me, as did the Victorian Era during which the book is set. Octavius Guy, aka Gooseberry, is an especially interesting character. Taken under the wing of a wealthy and successful lawyer, Gooseberry proves his worth with his intelligence and intuitive detecting skills. Having been a successful pickpocket and member of London's underworld of crime prior to his rehabilitation at the hands of Mr. Bruff, Gooseberry is able to go places and talk to people in his former profession, learning things that his employer cannot, and using his knowledge of how criminals work and his past experience to his advantage.
The case that Gooseberry and his employer become involved in is intriguing from the start. After being accosted by a group of children, usually a tactic to fluster and distract enabling one of the gang to steal something, an elderly woman finds that instead of something missing, she has acquired an unusual photo. Investigating the matter throws Gooseberry into a complex case involving a legendary diamond, a deposed Marajaha and a twisting plot of kidnapping, murder, romance and deception. Wanting to find out what happens next and how Octavius connects the clues he discovers kept me reading well into the night.
The details and research Michael Gallagher has done to prepare for this book really shines through. I loved the characters (especially Bertha), and details about things like the Thames Tunnel, and the differences between the social classes of the time. Very well written and I am really looking forward to reading more books about Gooseberry!
Suzy Schettler LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 07, 2015
I have to admit, I put off reading this book because I found the cover so amateurish. I know how the saying goes, but experience has taught me that an amateur cover usually contains an amateurish novel.
This book would be one of the exceptions to that rule. The writing is crisp, period appropriate and very readable. It successfully echoes the style of the Moonstone without slavishly aping it. 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.
Octavius is pretty well rounded, and an entertaining narrator, but the mystery plot meandered a bit towards the end, and the Moonstone characters felt underdeveloped compared with the original ones (it felt a little like they were being used as a shortcut compared with creating new ones).
(I did love the inclusion of recipes at the end, though!)
Mina Kelly LibraryThing Early Reviewer
I’ve just finished ‘The Scarab Heart,’ which I enjoyed as much as, if not more than ‘The Bridge of Dead Things’. Well done! You’re a great story teller and a wise writer. I loved the archaeological dig setting and thought you managed that very difficult technique - the time-slip story and stories within stories well. Your re-working of Merit’s poem is beautiful! Also, I thought all the info on Egyptian deities and history was fascinating - you clearly undertook a lot of research.
At this point, I would imagine, the challenge you face as a writer of eBooks is reaching out to a wider audience and although eBook writers are freed from many of the constraints of traditional publishing, marketing remains a huge challenge. This profile-building, I suspect is as difficult, if not harder than, writing the book in the first place! In the absence of the traditional publishing model with all its advertising, hyperbole and PR departments, you need some great publicity leap for your very good series to gain traction! Wonderful to see however, you’re getting so many good reviews.
Given I’m about to embark on the same self-publishing journey myself, I’m watching your progress with a great deal of interest and empathy.
All the very best of luck and I look forward to reading ‘Gooseberry’.
Ingrid Banwell (An old friend of Michael's – they recently reconnected through Facebook after 35 years!)
I’ve just finished reading your book ‘Bridge of Dead Things’ and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it.
It was infinitely better than many of the traditionally published, prize-winning books my book group picks to read – for one thing, it had a well told story with characters who transform through the book as well as mysteries and lovely double reversals. Clearly you’ve read Robert McKee’s wonderful Bible for writers: ‘Story’ ( or if you haven’t he may help make your writing even better!)
I loved all the séance theatrics and electricity generating detail – that merging of science with spirituality added another interesting and informative dimension to the story. So, well done. You know your craft well and I appreciate the work you put into it – writing a book is a mammoth task!
I’m thrilled also to see you finally, through the internet, getting the opportunity to showcase your multiple talents. Fantastic!
I’m about to start on your next books and want to read your latest release but the last time I looked, I couldn’t find Gooseberry on ibooks, which is where I purchase most of my books. So I’ll read The Scarab Heart next.
I presume at some point Gooseberry will turn up on ibooks and I’ll read it when it does. Let me know if you’d like me to do a review – I know they can be helpful in getting an ebook to climb up the charts.
All the very best and keep up the wonderful work.
Ingrid Banwell (An old friend of Michael's – they recently reconnected through Facebook after 35 years!)
December 01, 2014
I received this through Early Reviewers and imagine my delight to win a Michael Gallagher book! The previous books I read by him were delightful and this one does not disappoint. Octavius, a former pickpocket and now young, almost-detective, has been asked by his boss to help solve a mystery. This takes place in London, 1852. Since Octavius was instrumental in solving a previous mystery, his expertise of the lower classes of London is invaluable in the current one. 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.
Octavius (Octopus, Gooseberry) helps solve a mystery involving a young Maharajah (kidnapped? missing?), the East India Company, the Kohinoor diamond, and various and sundry thieves, scoundrels and a few Royals. Total delightful mystery which moves along at a great pace. The only thing I didn't like is that I finished it too fast.
M M Plante LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 23, 2014
So good! I am a huge fan of Michael Gallagher and this book is Michael at the top of his game. He takes the characters from the classic book "The Moonstone" and turns them loose in a brand new mystery. Well written, well plotted, the characters and the settings are wonderful. When you read a book by Michael Gallagher be prepared for a total immersion-every bit of scene setting, speech, character and historical detail is perfect.
The story is that Gooseberry, real name Octavius & former pickpocket, tackles a mystery involving other characters from Moonstone. Mrs. Blake and her aunt have been attacked on the street by a gang of children. Gooseberry must use all his wits and his connections within the street urchin world to figure out what is going on. What is the deeper mystery hidden in the motivation for the attack?
I enjoyed this book so much—just when I thought I knew what was going on, Michael threw in another twist! I highly recommend this book for fans of The Moonstone who wonder what happened next. I was given a copy, the review is my own opinion.
Chris Keen LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 30, 2014
This is a lovely cosy mystery which is set in the Victorian age. The main character who was himself once a pickpocket and now is working as a detective for a lawyer is drawn back to work underground and is faced by his old nemeses as well as old friends. He has to solve a mystery which includes not only the underworld but also the upper-class as well [as] the Queen and her husband. The spelling style is absolutely gorgeous because there are parts of street language as well as the proper English.
Barbara Heckendorn LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 22, 2014
I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
I found this book a quick and entertaining read. The characters were fleshed out and interesting, while the mystery unfolded at a great pace. You can't help but like Octavius/Gooseberry/Octopus and his brother Julius and friend Bertha. I also enjoyed seeing character development in the side characters (the butlers, the two Georges, etc.) which some authors don't think about doing. Very well done.
CurlyQueL LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 16, 2014
I read this as an ecopy so did not get to fully appreciate the beautiful cover. Connect with the author on his social pages to see it and other images that will be even more interesting as you read this book.
Gooseberry will appeal to all ages, from those who listen to it being read, perhaps age 8 and up, to readers of classic literature and mysteries. It has been a while since I read about the Moonstone, but knowing just a few basics is all you need to appreciate this story. Those basics are provided in this book. The Moonstone is an enormous diamond stolen from an Indian shrine. There are references to it as being how Gooseberry, the hero of this novel, meets the other characters.
Gooseberry's real name is Octavius. Before he came to his respectable employment, he struggled to stay alive using his talents for picking pockets. A natural nickname for someone with his name and talents is Octopus. Now that he is respectable and has left that past behind, Gooseberry, so named for his bulging eyes, tries to set a good example for his younger brother Julius. This becomes more difficult when they help hide another street survivor named Bertha in their own home.
I do not want to give away the story. It works wonderfully as author Michael Gallagher unfolds it. Gooseberry has to use his former talents and contacts to solve a mystery with very few clues. Once he has an idea of what crime is being committed, he has to expand his talents to be in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately that place will also turn out to be the wrong place.
If you are a fan of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, or George Eliot, you will appreciate this adventure.
I was gifted a copy of this book but the review is my honest opinion. I enjoyed this tale.
Wismom (Laura in Wisconsin) LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 03, 2014
I received this book as an ebook free from the author through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. The business of the Moonstone diamond continues with many of the same characters from the Wilkie Collins’ novel The Moonstone. This was a very interesting scenario. Gooseberry, a former slippery and swift pickpocket, has been taken in by a lawyer and has become his office boy and amateur detective. He helped solve the mystery of the Moonstone diamond in the past. He is now 14 years old and in this book he ferrets out the truth from his former friends and haunts in London’s underworld and solves this new mystery involving the Moonstone diamond. This is a very entertaining story and I liked the way the author used the Palari slang spoken by the lower classes in nineteenth century England. The author includes a very helpful glossary of Palari terms at the beginning of the book which I bookmarked for quick reference. I recommend this very entertaining and interesting book.
I ADAM LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 02, 2014
Received in pdf for Early Reviewers - my heart sank when I saw the length of it (more than 250 pp) to be printed out. But I was pleasantly surprised by the story: it's a fast-moving, rollicking and compelling read, conjuring up the atmosphere of Victorian London and its underworld. The tale is narrated by the young lad Gooseberry, real name Octavius Guy, former pickpocket turned detective. The characters, taken from the Wilkie Collins novel The Moonstone, are likeable and well described in a suitably succinct manner (but isn't it an easy cop-out to adopt another writer's characters?), the background vivid and the story entertaining (though I picked up the daguerreotype clue right from the beginning). The author seems to have carried out a lot of research on the period, including a study of the slang used in less savoury circles. And a handful of recipes are included at the end, adding some local flavour. The only thing I object to is the American spelling (why?) - and oh, it would have been kind to number the pages as they got muddled spewing out of my printer and it took me a while to sort them out. Another small thing, but it's just personal taste: I don't like the font used for the cover (Gooseberry), too quirky and modern, out of context with the very nice photo.
Barbara Ender Jones LibraryThing Early Reviewer
August 21, 2014
First a note on formatting: the font size was very large and needed adjusting. Also, though when the ebook is opened to the cover image on Kindle for PC, the preview image for the digital library is only the default blue image. If there is a way it can be fixed either by downloading a new copy or somehow adjusting the one I have, I would ask for someone to bring it to my attention.
As for the story, I found a connection with it through personal experience with the plot of mediums, particularly a spiritual conduit. With two running main plots between missing diamonds from a crazy family and a fake-psychic performance from people who actually got their hands on a girl with power for a change, it was often hard to connect the details together; it was only tied together in the last chapter. This was good in that the meat of the story was not easily predictable, but there is something uneasy about exposition after a book's climax.
MoonSpider LibraryThing Early Reviewer
August 27, 2014
Wonderful stuff on the Davenport brothers! I've always loved those guys and much enjoyed your posting.
I got interested in them while researching Charles J. Colchester. He was a friend of John Wilkes Booth, and I develop their relationship in Fortune's Fool, a life of Booth which Oxford University Press will publish next year.
I am very anxious to find a photograph or likeness of Colchester. Have you ever seen one? There isn't one at the Library of Congress.
Glad to hear from you.
April 27, 2014
Fantastically written addition to the Lizzie Baylock series!! As much as I loved The Bridge of Dead Things ~ I adored The Scarab Heart! These books are marvelous, really and truly something special! Lizzie Baylock is a Victorian teen who can bring dead people back to the living temporarily. This is a talent she discovered in book 1. In this adventure, she travels with her blind and aging mentor, Miss Otis, to an archaeological dig in Egypt. I love accurately based historical fiction so this was a real treat for me. Ancient Egypt is a fascinating subject in itself, but bringing in our young medium, and giving her even another 'special gift' was dazzling. Once again Lizzie finds herself learning of young love as a side note, not the main event. Which is quite refreshing. This story is amazing ~ the fact that this young girl has to navigate the current mystery with an ancient one gives it real depth. Loved, Loved, Loved it!
I would recommend this book to any and all. I love this series of YA historical fiction, that Michael Gallagher has created, and can not wait to read the next one...whatever will Lizzie get up to now?
Paula Fetty-King Goodreads Reviewer
March 18, 2014
I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers and I'm so glad that I did because I absolutely loved it! I don't give out 5 stars very often, but I did for this book! It grabbed me from the start and didn't let go. The characters were well defined and it was easy to visualize them in my mind as I read. I found the story itself gripping. It kept me reading well into the early hours of the night!
I've always been interested by the Victorian fascination with seances and the Other Side so the setting and premise of the book was right up my alley. Lizzie Blaylock is a young girl from an impoverished family where her mother has run off and her father is an irresponsible alcoholic and thief, along with a little sister sick with TB. Not a pretty picture, but one that was all too common for the lower classes of the time. Lizzie, however, is not an ordinary young girl, but one who is "the rarest of the rare"...a material medium. Souls from the Other Side can use her body as a bridge to cross through to this world for a short period of time, and they can not only appear but also speak and interact with their loved ones. This ability is at first confusing to Lizzie until she learns what she is and what is happening during such episodes.
Knowing how desperate the times were for those in need, and taking Lizzie's young age and naivety into consider, it's no wonder that she falls into situations in which she doesn't know who to trust or if good fortune that falls into her lap will be snatched away without warning. She is resourceful and feisty, as well as intelligent and loyal. Mysteries abound and Gallagher does an amazing job creating an atmosphere of rising fear and creepiness. The characters known as Mr. and Mrs. Silver are an excellent example of the latter. They made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and I think the author could do an excellent horror novel on them alone!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It was an exciting read and I was sorry to come to the last page. I hope that there are many more additions to the Lizzie Blaylock series because I now consider myself a firm fan! :-)
Suzy Schettler LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 20, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual and intriguing YA book. It is part of a series, and unlike me, I suggest you read this one first.
The book is set in Victorian London and the heroine is a thirteen year girl called Lizzie Blaylock, with a gift she doesn't understand. She is a "materialising medium" or a bridge for the dead to contact the living.
The story opens with Lizzie suffering a seizure at school. She doesn't understand why her friends seem scared of her afterwards and is perplexed the following morning when she is expelled from school for impersonating a class mate who died a few months earlier. Confused and unaware of her "gift" she takes the position of a live-in maid.
All is not as it seems in her first placement. Her inability to control her ability leads to an extraordinary series of events but also brings her to the attention of other mediums working in London. Some wish to exploit her for financial gain while others wish to protect her. She is taken in by Simeon de Florence a renowned medium, where with the help of her friend Albert she discovers the truth about her predecessors.
Short chapters, lively dialogue, diverse characters and plenty of action drove the story forwards at a cracking pace. Suspense built towards an explosive ending. Very enjoyable.
As well as an entertaining read, there is just a subtle hint of a deeper reading of the story; the risk of exploitation of girls "coming of age."
The only criticism I could make (Please bear in mind I could be completely wrong as I only read a handful of YA novels and rarely historical fiction) but to me Lizzie felt like a contemporary teenager.
I've already read the second book in the series The Scarab Heart, which now makes more sense and I will be looking out for the third book, The Cat Who Fishes.
Diana J Febry Amazon.co.uk Reviewer
March 20, 2014
Lizzie Blaylock, a resident of Victorian London, was not having a good month. First, she is expelled from school for having some sort of fit that scared her whole class. She goes home to her terminally ill sister, to learn her father has lost his job. She lands a job as a maid, but that quickly ends when she has another of her fits. She arrives back home to discover that her whole family has just been thrown out of their home because the rent was due. She has still another fit while hiding out at a meeting of people trying to contact their dearly departed friends and relatives. At this point, she is taken under the wing of a woman who proclaims that Lizzie is a Bridge (those who have crossed-over can cross back again via Lizzie), and she finds herself living with a group who provide a regular service to those wishing to contact the deceased. The ins and outs and what-just-happeneds will keep you turning the pages as Lizzie explores what she is and, also, finds out more than she wanted to know about running a Victorian-era seance for profit. How much is flim-flam and how much is honest psychic abilities? You will have to read the book yourself to find out.
Nightwing Whitehead Goodreads Reviewer
March 20, 2014
And the adventures continue! Lizzie Blaylock, a very unusually talented young woman of the 1890s, finds herself accompanying an older woman, with talents of her own, to an archeological dig in Egypt. Lizzie has the ability to not only speak with the dead, but also acts as a bridge between the afterlife and the current, allowing the dead to rise from her body and speak with their own voice. This is a talent that, as you can imagine, proves to be as much of a drawback as a blessing when surrounded by bits and pieces from Ancient Egypt. All Lizzie wants to do is ignore her talent and enjoy being in Egypt. Instead, Lizzie finds herself juggling a ghost with a mission, new friends with secrets, some not so petty thievery, and a companion who wants her to share her talent with the world. Plus, she might be falling in love. And then, there's a murder.... How Lizzie gets herself in, and out, of encounters with the far past and the present, is a captivating escape from everyday life. The imagery is fabulous, the characters are likeable, and the story is believably enthralling.
It is a good tale on its own, but read the first book in the series, The Bridge of Dead Things, to give yourself a better foundation for enjoying it to the fullest.
Nightwing Whitehead Goodreads Reviewer
March 04, 2014
Having read the second book before this one, I was already familiar with Lizzie and her power to channel the dead. I very much enjoyed going back to the beginning and finding out more about Lizzie. While the second book was more about the mystery, so to speak, this first book is clearly about Lizzie. I like the contrast between her home life and family and the people she comes to encounter. I hope there are more books to come in this series.
Sheryll LibraryThing Early Reviewer
March 04, 2014
I read this before reading the first book, which wasn't a problem. There was just enough explanation at the beginning to clue me in as to what the premise was. I enjoyed the inclusion of history/mythology, clearly a fair bit of research went into this book. I liked the character of Lizzie well enough to make me want to go find the first book and see what I'd missed of her story.
Sheryll LibraryThing Early Reviewer
February 01, 2014
"The Bridge of Dead Things" is the beginning of a series of Lizzie Blaylock books about a teenage girl with supernatural powers. We're introduced to Lizzie as she is experiencing for the first time her gift of "bridging" the world of the living with that of the dead.
The setting is Victorian London, and throughout the book the author contrasts what that period looked and felt like from the perspective of the destitute with that of the privileged. Lizzie is growing up in extreme poverty with a disappointing father figure and an entirely absent mother. She is mostly left to look after herself and her younger sister who suffers from tuberculosis. Her father eventually abandons her, leaving her homeless.
When Lizzie unintentionally transforms into a bridge during a public seance, an opportunist named Simeon spots her and offers her a home with luxuries that are foreign to the world of poverty from which she comes. Although Lizzie slowly begins to comprehend that her body is a bridge between the living and the dead, she doesn't know how to control it. Simeon's motives are financially driven as he begins exploiting her at seances staged at his home, which has been kitted with fantastic props and illusions that are just convincing enough to provide a good income for him and his household.
As Lizzie discovers Simeon's secrets, she realizes that she is a threat to his livelihood and that some of her predecessors had mysteriously disappeared. She fears for her own fate, but along the way she makes allies with some colourful characters who offer to help her.
The setting in Victorian London provides good atmosphere. The characters are well developed, and the plot itself was interesting. Once I was about a quarter of the way through the book, I felt so engaged that I finished it within a couple of days.
Lizzie is an interesting heroin worthy of her own series. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of young adult fiction.
I received this book as an Early Reviewer, but that did not influence my review.
Kate Rutjes LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 28, 2014
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was amazed by the authors accurate depiction of the 1800s. He does it in a way that you feel as though you are back in time. This is a story of a girl who realizes she is "the bridge" to the other side. She tries to find herself while spirits take over. This book didn't seem to leave me with any questions, just wanting more.
Melissa P. LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 25, 2014
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Wow...I don't know what I was expecting, but not that.
I've never read a mystery-Egyptian-paranormal from the Victorian era. Scarab Heart totally sucked me in. It was fast paced and very fun to read.
Can't wait for the next book!
Kelly LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 18, 2014
I received a copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Book 1, but it was still an enjoyable read. It kept me guessing till the end, which I suppose is the hallmark of a good mystery.
labrat35 LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 14, 2014
Eliza Blaylock, Lizzie, is having a rough time. Her dad's been fired; her sister has tuberculosis; she just had some sort of fit at school for which she's getting kicked out and having to start working. When she has another fit, slowly she and those around her begin to realize that she may have special powers to communicate with the dead.
While not action packed, it's not exactly that kind of story. There are parts containing a good deal of action, but this is a primarily character driven story.
A good deal of background and detail, sometimes subtle detail, go into developing the characters and narrative throughout the tale.
Scenery is time appropriate and described with flair.
Without giving too much plot away, I will just say this, the underlying mysteries/dilemmas are interwoven nicely.
Overall, a fun read.
catya77 LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 07, 2014
The Bridge of Dead Things reminds me a bit of Riley's The Oracle Glass. Both feature a teenaged protagonist who has both real powers, and the ruse she uses to maintain her image. But where The Oracle Glass is a bit of fantasy grounded in 17th century France with some infamous historical figures, The Bridge of Dead Things is closer to a gothic novel and is solidly YA. There is the "madwoman in the attic" trope, the Victorian seances, and the idea of travel to "exotic" locations in search of wealth. Nothing stuck out as wrong. At the same time, it lacked the details that could have truly made it feel immersive in the era.
As for the plot itself, Lizzie's powers are rather interesting. In many ways, I wish the book had focused on her development of them. Additionally, because she's not conscious of what happens to her, most of what she does is revealed later and secondhand. While this works to create tension at the beginning (while Lizzie is trying to figure out what is going on), it leaves things a bit lackluster later on. I did find that all of the threads of the plot tie back together a bit too neatly as well. That said, it's a good read with some interesting side characters along the way. I liked it well enough that I would be willing to read at least the second book in the series.
Amanda Lord LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 05, 2014
An enjoyable read, although I did find it a little slow to get going. The characters were engaging and there was just enough mystery and suspense to keep the reader interested, with a little bit of the supernatural to entertain a YA audience.
bellymonster LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 04, 2014
This is an interesting, enjoyable YA novel. Characters are well-developed. Story is gripping. There were some funny incidents which made me laugh. And i liked the way writer tied different weird events together. But ending could have been better. There are some places where novel becomes confusing and story doesn’t flow smoothly.
Bibash Sapkota LibraryThing Early Reviewer
January 01, 2014
An unusual YA book.
Set in 1885 the heroine, Lizzie Blaylock, is a 14 year old English girl with the power to temporarily raise the dead. Accompanied by her blind mentor, Miss Otis she sets off to visit an archaeological dig in Egypt. There she becomes involved in unravelling the mystery of the site thefts and murder along with finding a scarab heart for an ancient Egyptian princess.
The easy writing style blends the two stories together without confusion. The unusual characters and clear descriptions of the scenery keep the story fresh. As with most YA books, the story races along at a good pace, sometimes at the expense of explanations and a stronger sense of suspense building. Overall an enjoyable quick read.
Diana J Febry Goodreads Reviewer
December 31, 2013
The Scarab Heart is the 2nd book in Michael Gallagher’s Lizzy Blaylock series. There’s a lot to admire with this book, but it ultimately fell a bit short of the first book for my taste.
Things I liked:
The amount of research Gallagher incorporated is impressive. The Scarab Heart is a very nice blend of ancient Egyptian history/mythology and Victorian era culture. At times I thought it was a bit forced, but overall it was extremely well done and quite compelling. The setting of the novel is an Egyptian archeological dig where, thanks to Lizzie’s paranormal talent, an investigation of the murder of one of the dig workers overlaps with an ancient Egyptian murder mystery. I especially enjoyed how Gallagher used Egyptian history and mythology to suit the needs of his plot. I’m no scholar on ancient Egypt, but I knew enough going in that I was very impressed.
Things that didn’t quite work for me:
Lizzy seems to have lost a bit of her sassiness from the first book, and I think that’s a shame. Instead, she comes across as a bit more petulant and selfish as opposed to the self-confident, mouthy little girl from The Bridge of Dead Things. I never quite got 100% behind her in this one - I was never quite on her side. More importantly, the climax of the novel is telegraphed by this change in characterization in the opening pages of the novel, which left the end extremely predictable and, ultimately, flat.
I also found the narrative style of the novel problematic at times. The vast majority of the narrative is people sitting around telling stories about things that happened to them. The stories themselves are involved and active, but I found it difficult to get past the fact that most of the time this is a story about people telling stories. I found myself not knowing what or whom the narrative was actually focused on and not really caring about the storytellers. In the end, the multiple stories did come together, but they seemed to fight each other every step of the way until the final pages.
The Scarab Heart is a good book. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first in the series, in the end I did enjoy it.
Robb Flynn robbflynn.com LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 20, 2013
This is a great vacation read. It has a thought out plot and twists to keep it interesting. It was a quick read for me but kept my interest. I look forward to reading more.
bella55075 LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 16, 2013
I thought this was a pretty good book. I thought that the main character Lizzy was likable. I enjoy supernatural books and thought this did a good job with taking on mediums. I didn't find it all that scary although some parts were a little creepy. There were several characters throughout the book that had interesting backstories and related to Lizzy in different ways I found that made the story enjoyable. It had me wondering how they would all end up connecting. I plan on reading the sequel to The Bridge of Dead Things; it definitely left me wanting more.
Kellerdean LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 08, 2013
This was SO good! The story of Lizzie and how she discovered she is a 'bridge' to the dead. Some shivery parts and an historically accurate look at mediums, spiritualism and the way Victorian people, especially the poor lived. Gallagher always does his homework and you can feel how much he loves this era and these characters. Speaking of characters, there is a genuinely terrifying character in this book that blew me away! One of the scariest I have read in a long time-I won't give it away but when you meet her/him/it, you will leave your light on! My only criticism and I had to really search to find ANYTHING!! The cover creeps me out which I guess is the point! Also, this is a YA novel set in 1885 but in a few places the 21st century shows through-mostly minor dialog that doesn't interrupt the flow. Ignore those parts and a few formatting errors. This book is worth your time and the second book in this series (The Scarab Heart) is also very good. I can't wait for more!! 5 stars
I received a copy of the book to review-my opinion is my own.
Chris Keen LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 04, 2013
Mr Gallagher - What a cracking book! A story full of murder, mystery and mayhem. A plot of twists and turns; enough red herrings to make Agatha Christie green with envy. I have learnt more about Egyptian ancient history from your book, than I ever learnt at school. The machinations and plotting that went on in the Pharoh's court; the structure of that hierarchy of Egyptian lives, and just how fragile their authority could be. Also how excavations in Victorian times were carried out, regardless of the fact that Europeans were actually "tomb robbers" too!
Within the story is a great moral theme of consequences - every thought, action and deed....
This book is not just for young readers - every adult reading it can learn about themselves and the role they play in their own lives.
Let us not forget out heroine - Lizzie. She is somewhat reluctant, but knows in her heart, that good must overcome evil. She does not disappoint!
Thora Foy Smashwords Reviewer
December 03, 2013
An interesting mix of the Victorian Era and Egyptology. Definitely gave a different perspective on all those archeology digs! The mystery was a bonus for me.
NitaneeLyon LibraryThing Early Reviewer
December 01, 2013
The Scarab Heart is a mystery set in a Victorian era. Although the start was a bit confusing on the central characters as it was the second book in the series, there was clarity soon after a couple of chapters. The story flows in 2 eras and i personally liked the Egyptian tale. More than being eager to know who committed the deed in the present time, I was looking forward to hearing Merit's portion of the events.
Except for Lizzie, the other characters are not that well etched out and the mystery part felt a little amateurish. I would have loved to see some finesse there which would have made the book all the more better. The two tales also seem disjoint and could have been merged better. Inspite of this, I definitely did enjoy reading the book and never felt like skipping pages or putting it down. For this, I would give the book 4 stars and hope that the author is able to turn this into an interesting series.
Kuntal Raval LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 13, 2013
If you're a fan of the old penny dreadful (like Sweeney Todd) then you'll enjoy reading about Lizzie Blaylock and what happens to her after she has a "fit" during class.
After giving an "impression" of a deceased classmate, Lizzie can't return to school and must get a job to provide for the family. There are those who would take advantage of her or do her harm but she also gains friends.
Unlike the penny dreadfuls the characters are fully drawn and the plot is cohesive.
astults LibraryThing Early Reviewer
November 05, 2013
The Scarab Heart by Michael Gallagher is a Paranormal YA Mystery in a Victorian setting. While this is a second book, you don't need to have read the first book to understand what's going on, although if you read this book first, as I did, I suspect you soon will be acquiring its predecessor (The Bridge of Dead Things). It is obvious that the author did his homework, I'm a bit of a Victorian buff and reenactor, and the details, dialog, and characters are all appropriate to the period.
While this is a young adult novel, and my initial interest was from the perspective of being the designated "pre-reader" for my 8 grandchildren, this book has plenty of depth and complexity to keep the adults interested as well. The action flows smoothly, the plot develops nicely, and all the loose ends are tied up in the end as they should be in a well written whodunnit.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Emilious Tarr Smashwords Reviewer
October 28, 2013
Firstly I want to say how very impressed I am with the amount of research that has been undertaken. Every effort seems to have been made to contain the actions and beliefs of all the characters in keeping with the period the novel is set in.
Lizzie's adventures on an Egyptian archaeological dig can be read as a mystery, every episode providing clues as the story unfolds. The writing flows naturally and kept my interest throughout. Also embedded in the novel is Merit's story, an ancient Egyptian Princess and her history is very adeptly used to define Lizzie's actions on the Dig.
So well has the individual characters been described that when I got to the end of the novel, I realised how cleverly the author has covered his tracks to give us a surprise ending. And Lizzie is now ready for her next adventure as I gather more is to come.
Lara (Beta reader and now my truly wonderful proofreader)
October 18, 2013
I enjoyed this book very much. The author described the surroundings incredibly well, and the characters were developed nicely. I was able to "see" the furnishings, clothing, even the people, in vivid detail--and I don't have the best imagination. This is such an interesting subject to me, that I actually did a little bit of research into the real people that were talked about. The author gives details about actual events, which I found fascinating and appreciated the information and resources. I look forward to a follow up by this author. I didn't feel like this was a five star book, but only because there were times at which I felt a bit lost...as if I wasn't understanding what was being written. I gave a valiant attempt to clear up the muck by re-reading, but was unsuccessful.
Shelly Wills LibraryThing Early Reviewer
October 05, 2013
I originally picked this book up looking for a ghost tale. What I got was a fantastically detailed historical fiction novel ~ rich with period details from 1800 London, colorful characters, AND a very gripping ghostly tale. This book was branded YA, which I could see since the protagonist is a young girl (13 or 14), but beware ~ this is no 'love triangle' YA book, or 'OMG, I just had my first kiss' kind of YA. This is a well written, entertaining story about a young girl who has powers she doesn't understand. As usual with the young and naive, there are always those looking to exploit. I especially detested the 'wolf in sheep's clothing' in this story, and could not have been happier with the outcome they found for themselves. The haunting mystery in this book, drew me in and I was very satisfied when given answers to ALMOST all the questions swimming around my mind. I was both shocked and pleased to find this book to be only the first in a series, so I am eager to get my hands on the second installment.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, or a good thriller. Read this book, you will not be disappointed.
Paula Fetty-King Smashwords Reviewer
September 30, 2013
I received this ebook through Early Reviewers and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed it! Despite the main character, and narrator, Lizzie Blaylock being a young adult of 14, the book never feels as if it's talking down to younger readers. It's a good mystery and the supernatural elements such as Lizzie's medium abilities and the way they are described were creative and different than most takes I've read on such abilities. I also found the historical aspect about ancient Egypt and the heretical Pharaoh Ahkenaton and his family to be fascinating, as well as a beautiful love story that comes to parallel in small ways, Lizzie's own first experience with love. The book kept me guessing as to the thief and killer right to the end. Lots of twists, turns and suspense! I would definitely read more in this series.
Suzy Schettler LibraryThing Early Reviewer
September 22, 2013
As a fan of many the archeological mystery (from Agatha Christie to Elizabeth Peters), I quickly delved in to Michael Gallagher's "The Scarab Heart".
Fourteen year old Lizzie Blaylock can channel the dead, much to her chagrin but to the delight of her mentor, Ms. Otis. In "the Scarab Heart", it is 1885 and the duo trek to Egypt to visit an archeological dig. While there, they encounter theft, deception, and murder- and it's up to Lizzie to try to discover whodunnit. But it's not easy because Lizzie must also try to solve the mystery of the Scarab Heart.
Gallagher did a really good job of immediately creating the tone of the story. The narrative is fairly reminiscent of Late Victorian Britain, with a few liberties taken with phrasing- but not so much to be displaced from the setting. The text is not overly complex. It's simply written, very direct, but not dumbed down to make it easy to follow. There are great descriptive passages, especially of the Egyptian sites, but I personally would love more. The richness of the environment, for me, is as important as the action, but I know for YA novels, that's not always a preference. There is a nice balance between action and dialogue, which keeps the story moving forward and prevents the plot points from being contrived.
The characters have a great connection to each other and their dialogue flows naturally. There were a few moments where I felt that the interactions could have been stronger, but they weren't such a problem that the quality of the story was diminished. I also felt that there were one or two characters that could have been more present. Their roles seemed important to the story, but the way they were written, they did not make as much of an impact as they should have. Gallagher did a great job making characters that are easily distinguishable and with whom the reader can connect.
There is another story that unravels within "The Scarab Heart" (which I won't spoil). I liked the side plot and appreciated the depth of Egyptian history that Gallagher introduces, but....I think I would have been okay with a bit less of the side plot and a bit more depth to the main plot. The focus shifted to the side narrative a few times. It's not necessarily negative, because it did entice me to continue for the sake of getting back to Lizzie's story, but I found myself racing through to get to Lizzie's story. With respect to Lizzie's story, yes- she can channel the dead. I appreciated that it was touched upon in the appropriate places and did not overwhelm. That restraint keeps a character's special talents intriguing.
Having read a lot of mysteries, I pride myself on being quick to know the guilty party. I will say that I had a brief idea, but was still taken by surprise with the reveal. I liked that I was challenged and when I went back through the story, I discovered the clues that I didn't pick up on. It's not for the writer to point them out, it's for the reader to grasp them and I have to give kudos to Gallagher for craftily placing the clues where I missed them.
Michael Gallagher did a great job with "The Scarab Heart". It's well-written, has a nice pace, and keeps the reader interested. He seems to have a nice grasp of the period, not just with the style of writing, but also the culture of the characters and what would drive their actions. Overall, a really nice read. I look forward to reading more about Lizzie.
Sherri S. LibraryThing Early Reviewer
September 07, 2013
A good book. The story took a while to get started and I was confused over the set-up of who was who and why they were going to Egypt! Once it started rolling, this book was really good. A YA paranormal mystery with excellent Egyptology details. Gallagher did his homework; the settings and characters ring true. The story switches between the main story and ancient times in a believable way and that subplot makes perfect sense in the larger story. I like the way Gallagher structured the book and it all flows very well. My only 3 complaints are minor: first would be the 'voice' of the narrator Lizzie. She is supposed to be 14 and the story takes place in the late 1800's but the speech, expressions and tone sometimes unexpectedly mature as well as modern. Not a deal breaker for the book but a couple of times it was a little jarring. The romantic part was a little odd-I felt like Gallagher was trying so hard to keep it 'G' rated and within the confines of the Victorian era that it could have been downplayed even more and still certain parts (spoilers!) of the story intact. The last thing is the cover-it is a total turn off. What were they thinking with this thing? Very weird looking illustration, the colors are gross and the text is hard to read; definitely no 'shelf appeal' here. Having said all that, I did enjoy the book and especially thought Lizzie's talent as a ghost bridge is a super neat twist on the usual psychic/medium. The mystery was more than what I expected-not your average tomb raiders plot and was very neatly wrapped up with all clues accounted for and the culprits apprehended. I do look forward to reading more from Michael Gallagher.
I received a copy of this book to review.
Chris Keen LibraryThing Early Reviewer
August 29, 2013
Theft and murder are afoot at an archaeological dig in 1885 Egypt. Lizzie Blaylock, world renowned ghost channeler, and her mentor, Miss Otis, thought they were simply there to vacation, especially since Lizzie wants nothing more to do with her powers. Her powers have other things in mind.
The story is full of rich and varied scenes and characters. Action and plot line flow smoothly. Authentic interactions between characters occur frequently helping to add to the suspense and budding romances. Time and dream/reality shifts smoothly transition in the text causing little to no confusion.
Overall, a fun read!
catya77 LibraryThing Early Reviewer
August 23, 2013
Here's an interesting YA book, set in Victorian time period, primarily in the Valley of the Kings - Egypt.
Think I'd have devoured the series in grades 6 & up. Ideally, for optimal character comprehension the series would be read in order. That said the author is good at ensuring those of us starting here with the second in the series can sort ourselves out fairly easily.
Fascinating to read this varying interpretation of Ankhenaten & Nefertiti. Truly enjoyed the attention to details & historical accuracy.
Strong minded women have always existed & some undoubtedly more overtly than others. Think these will appeal to a variety of readers.
Will be looking to read the rest of the series as time permits. (Maybe even if it doesn't :-) )
L Kamsin LibraryThing Early Reviewer
August 14, 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The combination of Lizzie (a bridge to souls) and the Egyptian dig, and the Queen of Egypt manifestation through Lizzie's dreams, was totally cohesive and enjoyable. Throw in the murder & theft of artifacts mysteries, and my attention was taken. It's a light read, but very enjoyable. The fact that it's second in its series makes no difference whatsoever in understanding what's going on. I will go back and read the first one, and the one to come. Thanks to the publisher for supplying this to ER!
M M Plante LibraryThing Early Reviewer
July 30, 2013
Lizzie Blaylock is a young lady who discovers, quite by accident, that she is a conduit for the dead. Worse, she can't control when or where the "bridge" will form. Set in the 1800s, Lizzy's "talent" leads her to seances and sideshows while she tries not just to figure out how to control her new gift, but also what exactly the dead have gotten her mixed up in.
The development of the primary characters is quite enjoyable. Lizzie, specifically, has an interesting journey, although I do feel there were some non-essential elements utilized to "help" the reader empathize with her. In particular, the sassy, know-it-all attitude of Lizzie Blaylock is wonderfully done, and it is especially poignant when that, too, experiences change. There are a few important secondary characters who remain a bit steadfast even when confronted with a resolution, but it didn't detract from the overall story.
Bridge is a quick read, and Mr. Gallagher's pacing is outstanding. Even in the few description-heavy scenes, everything is essential and helps modify the tension. I didn't read it in a single sitting, but I could easily have done so had I the time.
This is a terrific first book for Mr. Gallagher. It's listed as a YA title, and I think that's exactly where it belongs. It is an outstanding introduction to several genres that are traditionally set outside the realm of YA, the most significant of which is that of the gothic. Personally, I would have liked to see a slightly stronger focus on the gothic elements, but I'm not certain that would have rung true with the YA categorization. As it stands, it is more of a mystery and historical fiction novel than anything.
I'm looking forward to book 2 in the series (The Scarab Heart) to see where Mr. Gallagher takes young Lizzie.
Robb Flynn robbflynn.com LibraryThing Early Reviewer
July 06, 2013
Though Lizzie Blaylock doesn't realize it, she is what is known as a 'bridge' for the dead. She unknowingly channels spirits, scaring quite a few people, and ending up in bad situation after bad situation. Eventually, she is discovered by Simeon, a con-artist who uses young children to create séances and trick people into believing in the afterlife.
This young adult novel is set in Victorian era London which is one of my favorite eras and places to read about. Séances were popular in that time and many 'mediums' took it upon themselves to make a pretty penny by communicating with the dead for rich and gullible people that were hoping to see or hear a loved one just once more.
This novel was a good look into the 'parlor tricks' part of séances in the 19th century. Though Lizzie Blaylock was considered the 'real thing', having brought forth a spirit several times, her employer, Simeon, had an entire set up for such parlor tricks and it was interesting to learn a little more about the inner workings of it all. While I personally do believe in spirits and/or an afterlife, I think it was rather interesting how people took that sort of spiritualism to a whole new level.
As for the character, Lizzie, I did connect with her and felt sympathy towards her. She lives a hard life and things just seem to get worse for her over the course of the novel. She eventually find that she has true friends to rely on in the end.
Overall, this ebook was enjoyable, but perhaps only because I really enjoy reading any book set in the 1800's and because I love anything to do with ghosts. I tend to stick to the haunting type of ghost stories but to read a little more about séances was very interesting. I think any young adult with a love for anything dark and macabre would really enjoy this book.
lazydayliterature LibraryThing Early Reviewer
June 04, 2013 [Read in June, 2013]
We start the story in a setting where even electricity is a indulgence. It was quite fun taking a step back in time and reading some of the items of the book and how things worked.
Lizzie is the main character, she has a life of which she takes care of her Father and her little sister. However, in those days she had to work to help support the family, even if her father wasn't working.
Lizzie has some strange things happening to her, spirits taking over as she seems to be the Bridge to Death. This is her struggle of figuring out who she is, and who she wants to be, even as people try to mold her into someone they can use for profit.
Raven LibraryThing Early Reviewer
May 14, 2013 [Read from May 03 to 05, 2013]
I won this book from Librarything for an honest review. To be more honest, i finished reading this book a month ago i.e, within a week of receiving the book but forgot to post a review. I am eagerly waiting for the next series as i loved reading this book so much. I read this book in two sittings. All the characters in the book were easily floating and still i remember their characters and their roles really well.
Throughout the story i sympathized for Lizzy Baylock, a 13 year old school girl. i think the author would have gone through many pains while penning her character, just like myself. For instance, When she was forced to leave the school for the mistakes she didn't commit and given opportunity to work as a maid, i felt so much pain in my heart. But this couldn't be compared to the pain when she was beaten by her employer, then lost her father and do not know where else to live. I was able to picture it in my mind.
The later part didn't touch me that much but i liked reading it anyway. When it is revealed that Simone cheated her by making everyone believe she has powers, i came to a conclusion that her powers were fake. But the story plot was so strong, the suspense of Lizzy Baylock's life secret nearly killed me. Overall, I could describe the bridge of dead things as a heavyily-balanced suspense thriller with nice turning points. In the next series, i did like a love story develop between Albert and Lizzy.
Mary LTER on Goodreads
May 13, 2013
Seances are hugely popular in Victorian England and there are more than a few con artists willing to provide their audience a chance to 'speak' to their dearly departed relatives in exchange for a bit of ready cash. However, every now and then someone comes along who's legitimate. Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Blaylock is one of these although she doesn't know what she does or how to control it. But Lizzie is more than just a link to the other side; she's a bridge allowing the dead to 'cross over' into the land of the living. And there are a lot of people who recognize her power even if she doesn't and they are not above using whatever means necessary to control her.
From the title and cover of The Bridge of Dead Things, I was expecting a horror story. What I got was so much better. This paranormal historical novel is great fun to read. Although aimed at a YA audience, I suspect most adults will enjoy it just as much as the target audience - I know I did.
Maxine McLister LibraryThing Early Reviewer
April 15, 2013
More More More!!!!
I need more…am awaiting the next book with serious impatience.
Wonderful use of language.
A serious gothic thriller.
It was thrilling and shocking at the same time…
I want everyone to read it and get as much pleasure from it as I have!
Thora Foy Goodreads reviewer
February 15, 2013
When Michael asked me to read his book ‘The Bridge of Dead Things’, I was pleased but apprehensive. I was going to read it the next day but curiosity got the better of me. I was just going to read a few pages…a taster. Once I started I could not stop. The only reason I did not finish it in one sitting was because I was so physically tired. I had to sleep. However, the next morning I finished and boy did I love it!!!!!
Stephen (Beta reader)
February 09, 2013
This is the story of Lizzie, a teenager who lives in Victorian London, and her life. The novel follows Lizzie through a series of incidents and we meet a rich variety of characters both good and bad. It is through these characters, but especially Lizzie, that we learn about the realities of surviving the harshness of Victorian London. There is a neat (but not too neat) twist to the plot which is revealed at the end!
I was doubtful about reading this novel. I am not the target audience and a sceptic concerning spiritualism (and by the way I think the author handles this element beautifully), but as I read it, I was drawn into Lizzie’s world and started to care about her and what was going to happen. The other characters, including Albert, are fascinating and reveal much about human nature, at its best and worst. But for me, this is Lizzie’s book, and a tribute to her courage and determination.
I loved the book, and didn’t want it to end. Roll on the sequel!
Elaine (Member of a reading group the author attends and now consultant on all things northern)
January 22, 2013
The events described here in this most fascinating story of Lizzie, our young Victorian heroine, reflect the beliefs of an age when anything supernatural could happen and did. Do read this and stretch your imagination. It’s a wonderful tale of a young girls ‘powers’ and will stay in your memory for a long time. The ending isn’t an ending—more is to come.
Me? I’m 77 going on 15.
Lara (Beta reader and now my truly wonderful proofreader)