Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Beauty of Murder - A. K. Benedict

‘He is the most dangerous man I have ever met. He can turn his hand to any skill and charm the pages from a book, the fur from a cat, the life from a man without once feeling remorse.’

Stephen Killigan is a newly arrived lecturer at Sepulchre College, Cambridge. One evening he finds the body of a young woman who has been missing, and informs the police, but when they go and look for the body it has vanished. This is the start of Stephen’s life-changing involvement with a most unusual serial killer, Jackamore Grass, which will see him time travelling between the present day and the seventeenth century in pursuit of the truth. 

The narrative moves between distinctive voices; first person accounts from Stephen and from the enigmatic Jackamore, and the investigation into the murders by the hassled police Inspector Jane Horne. This helps keep a good pace and maintains the reader’s interest in all aspects of the events and the seemingly inexplicable crimes. The investigation is made particularly intriguing as the usual methods of detection are not always helpful in this case, when dealing with a criminal who can slip away through time.

I was struck by the author’s wonderful use of figurative language in this novel; phrases such as ‘the wind has a knife to my throat and is pick-pocketing my bones’, ‘close up, his teeth are yellow and lean against each other like drunks’.

The setting of Cambridge and the surrounding Fens landscape provides much history and atmosphere, and many secrets, all of which the author draws on and incorporates to good effect in her tale.

There is much to admire and intrigue in this debut novel. It crosses over several genres to offer us a speculative thriller, complete with murder-mystery, police investigation, philosophy, the aesthetics of murder, time-travel and magic. It’s inventive, haunting and compelling. 

Published by Orion on 14th February 2013

I originally reviewed this book for Thanks to them and to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.


  1. The time-travel/magic element would usually be offputting for me but this does sound like a great book - one I will be definitely reading! Thank you for the review.

    1. Thanks very much for commenting Wendy. This was quite unlike anything else I've read recently, very inventive, and I don't normally go for time-travel type themes but this was interesting combined with all the other aspects.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)