Book Review: Alchemy, by Chris James

Publisher:  Globe Literary, London  |  Publication date:  15th February 2015  |  Edition:  Kindle (Review copy)

Alchemy by Chris James

Alchemy is a chilling psychological tale of mystery, murder and suspense and reveals an extraordinary decade in the life of a talented, sweet young and innocent genius, as he transforms into a monster. The author, well used to murder and the macabre, was a criminal trial lead detective in the British police.

In Victorian London, England, close to the end of the 19th century, a young artist unravels what he believes to be the formula for immortality and raising the dead, prescribed in an ancient tome: Alchemy

Just when he cracks the secret code for the final components of his elixir, his mistress and inspiration, dies. His life is devastated, his mind fragile, destroyed by drugs. He knows he has the power to revive her. But obtaining the last ingredients means resorting to murder, taking innocent lives.

He just has to decide whose.

His only surviving model, our narrator, infatuated with this painter of her portrait, attends the trial of the century, where she finally learns someone got away with murder.

Based on a true story? Why not decide for yourself?

Alchemy, my Review

I was overwhelmed by the ultimate suspense that author Chris James has created in his sensational murder mystery, Alchemy. As it has such an intriguing subject matter, and it was marvellously gruesome in all the right places, this story captured my attention from the get-go.

In a Jack the Ripper-esque tale the essence and mood of the period is paramount, and Alchemy has this in abundance. The story starts with the trial of an Artist accused of murdering several ladies. The prosecution does not paint the artist in the best light (excuse the pun) and makes short work of his lifestyle, including his potion-induced episodes and his overall mental stability, that is if you take into account his ‘guinea pig’ acquaintances in his earlier life. His parental influence meant the artist developed a skill for pharmaceuticals, dispensing various remedies via his late father’s old apothecary shop, above which he lived and continued his passion as a painter.

But the subject matter is almost always the same – his dear, fragile Emily, his one and only true love. He endeavoured capture her image forever. His father had once said, discover immortality through your work. No one could have predicted the fatal outcome of these last words…

When a particular book ‘Alchemy’ fell into his hands, the whole idea of immortality took a whole new meaning – but to succeed, a few unfortunate others must suffer a deadly fate. As a result his work becomes darker, as does his devotion to Emily.

As he strives to succeed, a series of grotesque events affect some of the colourful characters he comes into contact with, none of whom can ever compare to his lost love. The story leads you to wonder if he was working alone, or had lost his mind with the potions he consumes, or was in fact in any way responsible for the macabre acts that had been committed.

Told not only in the voice of his last known muse as she listens to the trial where the artist is accused of murder, but also in his own voice, made for a lively account and kept me on my toes. As events leading up to the trial were recalled, a picture of the artist and his life starts to build. Intermittently, various historical references also offered an interesting flourish to give the story an odd plausibility (I’m won’t give any more away about this – the cover suggests what to expect!).

If you’re an avid fan of vivid, wonderfully atmospheric and graphically murderous tales that are told with suspenseful relish, then I’d wholeheartedly recommend you read this.

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to the author for providing a Kindle copy of his book for review.)

Alchemy Author Profile

A former murder squad detective in England, Chris was often the lead-detective in murder trials. No stranger to murder and the macabre, he was a regular contributor to British True Crime television series. He has maintained an interest in criminology his entire adult life. In 2006 he moved from England to Mallorca, a beautiful Spanish island in the Mediterranean, where he is a keen yachtsman.

(All clipart images provided courtesy of openclipart.org)

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