|The Kingdom of Bones is the haunting story of Tom Sayers, a former boxing champion who must continue to fight—to clear his name after a series of gruesome murders, for the heart and soul of a leading lady, and to uncover the truth behind a legend as old as evil itself.
Wrongly accused of the slaughter of pauper children in the wake of the touring theater company he manages, Tom Sayers is forced to disappear into a twilight world of music halls and traveling boxing booths. Beginning with a chance encounter in a Philadelphia pleasure park one weekend in 1903, this brilliantly macabre mystery traces Sayers’ journey from England’s provincial playhouses through London’s mighty Lyceum Theatre and on to the high society of a transforming American South—with many a secret to be uncovered in the dark alleyways, backstage areas, and houses of ill repute that lie along the way.
As Sayers seeks the truth behind the killings, he is pursued in turn by the tireless Detective Inspector Sebastian Becker. Desperate to ensure the safety of actress Louise Porter, Sayers calls on an old friend, Bram Stoker, for help. But Stoker’s links with the world of the Victorian occult lead Sayers to discover a danger even greater than he could have imagined.
Thrown into a maelstrom of obsession, betrayal, and sacrifice—where even the pure may not escape damnation—Sayers must face the implications of an unthinkable bargain: the exchange of a soul for a chance at eternal life.
With action that spans continents, decades, and every level of society, The Kingdom of Bones follows the troubled lives of those touched by Tom Sayers, ultimately weaving their stories into a harrowing climax that stirs the mind—and the blood.
"The Kingdom of Bones . . . by Stephen Gallagher, shows the occult mystery in its best light. Vividly set in England and America during the booming industrial era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this stylish thriller conjures a perfect demon to symbolize the age and its appetites, an entity that inhabits characters eager to barter their souls for fame and fortune." —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
"Set mainly in late 19th-century England, Gallagher's ingenious horror thriller revolves around the extraordinary life-and death-of Tom Sayers, a real-life bare-knuckle fighter who, after retiring, briefly traveled the country staging reenactments of his most memorable bouts. While working as a manager for a touring theatrical company, Sayers falls in love with the troupe's leading lady, 22-year-old Louise Porter, who unfortunately doesn't share his feelings. Sayers also becomes the prime suspect in a series of mutilation murders and, while barely evading arrest, embarks on a quest to save Porter, who's become hopelessly entangled in an all-too-real occult legend. Bram Stoker and Aleister Crowley play minor roles. Combining the meticulous historical detail of Caleb Carr's The Alienist with gothic mysticism and Christian mythology, Gallagher (The Painted Bride) delivers a nicely macabre blend of fact and fiction." —Publishers Weekly
"In this moody, gripping period thriller, the shadowy world of the undead sucks in a beautiful actress and the man who would give his life to save hers. Gallagher skillfully weaves together vampire myths and the theatrical world of late Victorian England. Bram Stoker, future author of Dracula, manages the Lyceum Theatre company for celebrated actor Henry Irving. Stoker becomes an important observer on the scene when Tom Sayers, his opposite number in a much less prestigious touring company, is charged with a series of sadistic murders. A big-hearted former boxer, Sayers is hopelessly in love with mildly talented singer-actress Louise Porter, who is infatuated with fellow trouper James Caspar. It's Caspar who's the real murderer, a fiend who spends his off hours flaying homeless boys. The detective on the case is Sebastian Becker, a rising young policeman who falls for Caspar's frame-up of Sayers after Caspar murders a senior officer following up on an anonymous note from one of the doomed lads. A last-minute escape from brutal cops who would happily maul him to death sends Sayers on the lam and ultimately to America, but not before he saves the pursuing policeman's life, an act that gives Becker understandable pause. Detective and fugitive are reunited 15 years later in Philadelphia. Disgraced by Sayers' escape, Becker has gone there to work for the Pinkerton detective agency. Sayers has followed Louise, who believes she is in thrall to the same evil spirit that gripped Caspar (now dead), a spirit passed down from generations past. Forming an uneasy team, the policeman and the love-struck manager, eventually joined by Stoker, track the tragic actress from city to city as she leads a string of rich young masochists to their doom. Dark but splendid entertainment." —Kirkus