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The Fiend in Human (Edmund Whitty #1)

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  211 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
It's 1852, and the ranks of the London poor have doubled. In the swollen shadow of the great St. Giles Rookery, fallen women attract the perfumed dandies of the West End into a vicious circle of venality, vanity, and vice.

Edmund Whitty, correspondent for The Falcon, the city's second-best sensational tabloid, writes whatever will stimulate the reader, delay his (increasing
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 24th 2003 by Minotaur Books (first published March 7th 2002)
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Challenging At First, But Funny, Interesting And Enjoyable

I enjoyed this novel very much though I can see why some readers would be put off by the writing. While the writing in my opinion is very good, it's not going to be to the taste of those who choose their fiction primarily from the best sellers lists. Nothing against the best-sellers list, the books found there are best sellers after all, I've found books I've enjoyed there myself. But for the most part you can sit down with a best-seller
Jul 10, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: Laura
This is a delicious journey through fog-shrouded Victorian London from the idle wealthy to the down-and-outs.

Edmund Whitty is a journalist, but he is also a down-and-out. His work days are occupied with covering less than plum assignments and his days and nights filled with substance abuse. Ironically and eventually, his circumstances change slightly for the better by his association with the underside of London and, finally, a purpose.

While reading The Fiend in Human, I kept expecting Jack t
Nancy Oakes
This is one of those books where the whole thing doesn't make sense until you've finished it. Written in a definitely Victorian mode, it is both a tour of Victorian London and a mystery. If you're not used to writing done in this style, it can be a bit off-putting, to say the least.

The characters are well drawn and the story is a good one. The main character is a Mr. Edmund Whitty, a reporter for The Falcon, a newspaper that has no qualms with sensationalizing to try to outdo the rival papers. S
Nov 15, 2010 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Mark by: no one
This novel is essentially a Victorian murder mystery: who is really Chokee Bill, the murderer of prostitutes in London? Is it the man jailed for it, or is it some other individual on the loose?

The heavily flawed protagonist in this novel is the journalist Edmund Whitty. A womanizer, drunk, drug-user, debtor, etc., there really is not much to like about his character. Given all these flaws, his motivation for making sure an innocent man does not hang for the Chokee Bill murders seems inconsistent
Erica Hudson
I registered a book at!
Dec 26, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a good one! Finely researched (although sometimes I thought the author had made a list of all things in 19th century London that HAVE to appear and than almost copied them from some book on the topic) and a good story with many twists and turns until the very end. I loved it.
Mar 17, 2014 Tina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a very slow start with The Fiend In Human by John MacLachlan Gray, and for a time I started to wonder if I would actually finish it. I'm not even sure why because it's rather brilliant, but it had a long build-up establishing the settings - the foggy streets of London anno 1852, a serial killer ”The Fiend In Human” who strangles prostitutes with white scarves and disfigures their faces, and Edmund Whitty, journalist at the Falcon, in debth over his head to ratters and addicted to almost an ...more
Jun 18, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edmund Whitty is a journalist in Victorian London. Not just any journalist however, for "among his colleagues, with the possible exception of Mr. Hicks the contrarian (who, it is said, keeps beetles in his pockets), Whitty is the most despised correspondent in London." In addition to covering public hangings, sex scandals in girl's schools, and other newsworthy items, Whitty recently created a sensation by dubbing London's latest killer of prostitutes "Chokee Bill". Since that moment of glory, h ...more
Nov 30, 2013 Free rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely head-over-heels loved this book - so this is not going to be a very objective review.

So I will just list the reasons I loved it.

Period detail and level of research. I learned so much more about the Victorian era, particularly the less salubrious aspects, and aspects peculiar to the era e.g. Ackers Chloridine.

Mr Whitty himself. He is a total reprobate in many ways, and yet at heart a decent enough man, and likeable despite everything.

The 'mystery" itself, and everything related to th
The Fiend in Human (form) by John MacLachlan Gray is a crime and criminal situation in Victorian London where privilege was known to get more than it's due, especially freedom from prosecution to it's senior members unless the prosecuting person has alot of facts and proof to make something stick. Perhaps this is still true, but something about the public morals of this period and it's willingness to overlook in large numbers renders the subject a little more poignant. The book has a very good s ...more
Natasha Ranken
Jun 29, 2011 Natasha Ranken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I really enjoyed this book. The narrative is well-worked, and the perspectives are neatly arrayed. The mystery is set up beautifully, though I'm sad to say that the person I wanted least to be the villain is indeed the villain. It always works out that way. :/

Has a lot of newsfolk stuff. Victorian London, the rougher side. I thought of a journalist friend of mine often when I read familiar sentiments from the editor and correspondent. he protagonist is a reporter, one who's sort of fallen f
Hmmm. This book was OK but it was a heavy read, and even after almost 400 pages I still do not feel as if I ever got into the flow of it.

The book was very dense: dense with misery of the poor of the times, dense with jargon, dense with side plots, dense with bits of 'fascinating trivia', dense with little poems and verses, dense with the author's need to show off his own cleverness, I think. Further, I never warmed up to the protagonist Edmund Whitty and for the first two thirds of the book, or
Sherry Chiger
Oct 11, 2012 Sherry Chiger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What distinguishes The Fiend in Human from the myriad other Victorian thrillers, to the point that it's one of my all-time favorite books?

1) The protagonist. Edmund Whitty is dissolute, insolvent, and hapless--yet aware of these shortcomings to comic yet poignant effect. He's also articulate, intelligent, intuitive, and despite an exterior of skepticism and degeneracy, a highly moral being. All of which makes him someone you want to spend as much time with as possible.

2) The writing. By combinin
Jun 12, 2008 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Victorian-esque literature
Recommended to Doreen by:
First off, I was impressed by the author's virtuosic ability to carry the entire narration in the present-tense. It's a difficult thing to do, as a writer, and as a reader, it's the kind of thing you notice only partway through the book and then exclaim over. It works well here, too, as the text of the novel merges seamlessly with the text of the articles written by the fictional characters in the course of the book.

Apart from admiring the technical skill on display, I also enjoyed the story its
An enjoyable book, but not without its problems.

It took me ages to finish The Fiend In Human, not because it was boring, but because it was so rich and dense with characters and period detail. I had to take breaks in order to take it all in.

There were some problems with the pacing, and some characters seemed interchangeable, but overall it was an entertaining book.

Beware, though, Gray stays true to the attitudes of Victorian England, so there are some references that might trip a reader up. Refe
Sep 16, 2011 Rob rated it liked it
An historically-set murder mystery. It is an interesting peek into the under-belly of Victorian-era London. I did enjoy it for that reason, but the story itself was not very inspired: okay--just not great. I did not sympathize with any of the characters really. They all had such flaws and lacked development such that I did not much care what happened to any of them.
This was definitely written in a Victorian style. And at one point I gave up and started keeping a pocket dictionary near me: to no
The book probably deserves another half star but I found the prose a bit over wrought and pretentious. Gray does spend a considerable amount of time setting the scene and if you are already interested in this genre you probably all too familiar with "turn of the century" London and I found the description a bit laborious. Nonetheless, he presents a decent story with well developed characters emblematic of a forgotten age. There are some nice but perhaps too foreseeable plot that also seem to ham ...more
Chris Carlton
Jan 24, 2009 Chris Carlton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, in some respects, a damned near flawless book. It is especially effective at creating settings that the reader feels he or she has actually inhabited. One forgets that the novelist didn't actually live on the seamier side of Victorian London. Characters are full and fascinating. The weakest point (which is still strong) is the mystery plot. The poetry of the writing is so tasty it makes you wish at times that the plot would get out of the way.


This was great fun. It is a crime thriller set in 1850s Victorian London that pays conscious homage to the 19th century 'blood & thunder' melodramas in its style.

Its well-named central villain of 'Chokee Bill' is sort of a pre-Ripper serial killer praying on women of 'low character' on the fog-bound streets of London.

Though I did have the book to hand from the library, I did listen to most of it via Audible. The narrator did an excellent job throughout.

Hil Sloan
Apr 06, 2011 Hil Sloan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this story on Audible - and enjoyed every minute of the 15 hours! True the plot did, at times become subsumed by the evocative descriptions of Victorian London, but in an odd way that further enhanced the whole experience. I normally get bored with extensive descriptive passages, but the reader, Patrick Romer came over as the very essence of a Victorian gent, subtly transporting the readers/listeners back to the mid 19th Century.
Mar 24, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another Victorian thriller - I really do seem to like these, don't I? This one is wonderfully graphic; it really conjures up the sights and smells and sounds of the Victorian underworld. It's a real page-turner too - I couldn't put it down. And I didn't guess the identity of the Fiend at all! It has some nice twists too. A very enjoyable book.
Nov 02, 2009 Roz is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I started this weeks ago & it seemed like such a drag (actually "The Angel's Game" became available, so I HAD to read that!)... have now gone back to it and it seems a bit more interesting ... very real dialogue of the Victorian period and many slices of different lives of the folks who lived in and around London.
Jun 12, 2016 Duntay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I realise this is a novel and and not history as such, but a few things have raised questions in my mind. Was murder so prevalent in Victorian London that the police would ignore a corpse in the street? Did people really have wooden teeth?
Oct 15, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, library-returned
This was described as a "thriller." Nothing thrilling that I could see, and I gave up looking for it 30% into the book. I'm past the point where I consider all books worthy of my time right to the bitter end.
Doug H
Mar 10, 2013 Doug H rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read 40 pages and gave up. Paul West handled this sort of material MUCH better in his novel 'The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper'.
Aug 30, 2013 4cats rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intense historical crime read, full of detail, reminded me of The crimson petal and the white.
Chris Valleau
Jan 30, 2014 Chris Valleau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Came highly recommended and did not disappoint!
Not bad.
Spencer Koch
Spencer Koch rated it really liked it
Sep 15, 2011
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