The Fiend in Human
I finished reading The Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray. This Victorian thriller tells the story of a serial killer who preys upon prostitutes and a jaded and self-indulgent newspaper correspondent, Edmund Whitty, who dubs the killer, "Chokee Bill, the fiend in human form." As the story unfolds, more young women are found murdered, and Whitty starts to suspect that the wrong man is in prison facing the gallows for the grisly murders. The correspondent's quest to uncover the truth leads him into the underbelly of London known as The Holy Land, and introduces him to people he would never have deigned to talk to prior to his new experience. The Fiend in Human starts slowly with elaborate descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of the era, which makes for a fascinating read, but doesn't help move the plot along. As soon as Gray gets the story moving, the plot is riveting and the story turns into a real nail biter. I enjoyed his use of the vernacular of the period. I had to keep a dictionary on hand while reading this novel so I could look up the words I had never heard before, like: costermonger (one who sells vegetables and fruits), peeler (a policeman), ratter (a dog that catches rats, in this case a man who fights dogs and rats), and judy (a prostitute). The vocabulary in this book is so rich and archaic; Gray probably should have included a glossary. I enjoyed The Fiend in Human and recommend that anyone reading the book not let the plodding start put them off the book, the pay off is at the end.