Book review: Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon


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AUTHOR INFO: Robert Rick McCammon was a full-time horror writer for many years. Among his many popular novels were the classics Boy's Life and Swan Song. After taking a hiatus for his family, he returned to writing with an interest in historical fiction.

McCammon resides in Birmingham, Alabama. He is currently working on the eighth Matthew Corbett novel, The King of Shadows.

Publisher: Gallery Books (October 21, 2007) Length: 656 pages

This series rocks. After the events described in Speaks The Nightbird, Matthew moved to New York. He works as a law clerk. When a vicious killer targets respected citizens with no apparent links to one another, Matthew can’t resist the mystery and investigates the murders. He has no choice.

His particular skills (attention to detail, intelligence, drive) and mindset (getting all the answers, no matter the cost) get him in trouble. But they also allow him to gain powerful allies. Queen of Bedlam tells an exciting story and sets the stage for the following entries in the series. Friendships formed here change Matthew’s life. His investigation makes him a powerful enemy whose lethal plans reach far beyond this book. While Queen of Bedlam isn’t the best entry in the series, it’s the most important one. 

The novel draws the reader into the life and times of early New York City. As expected, McCammon includes a lot of historical details in the story. Fortunately, he also has the skills to make everything work and make detailed descriptions fascinating, not tiring.

Matthew is one of my favorite protagonists ever. He's an unlikely and unassuming hero with an uncanny ability to solve problems. Yes, he's clever and obsessed with the truth, but other than that? There's nothing extraordinary about him. I like his self-doubts, a degree of vanity, and ambition. I admire his willingness to get to the bottom of, well, everything. 

Matthew is at the center of the story, but in well-structured chapters and harrowing scenes, the author gets into the behavior and actions of other characters, ratcheting the tension as crimes are committed. 

McCammon's descriptions and scene-setting make everything easy to visualize. Such vivid images of the era and Matthew's struggles tend to hook the reader. McCammon's descriptions engage all the senses and when things get gruesome, it's quite revolting. But also addictive. I'm thoroughly impressed by his writing.

Queen of Bedlam provides a fascinating mix of history, mystery, and crime. It works beautifully on all levels. At the time of writing this review, I'm finishing the fifth book in the series. I probably won't read anything else before I read all Matthew Corbett books available at the moment. It's utterly engrossing and thrilling.

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