There’s a saying that if you want something doing you should ask a busy person to do it; well Josh Reynolds should be considered at the top of any shortlist of candidates. His published output so far in 2014 comes to 12 short stories, 3 novellas, 5 novels and 1 audio drama, with a further 18 pieces of work listed on his website with publication dates still to come. His work spans many publishers, and characters both well-known and less so, including his own Adventures of the Royal Occultist series, the first novel of which is 2013’s The Whitechapel Demon. Set in 1920s London this follows the adventures of Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass as they tackle the kind of jobs that the police aren’t qualified for, such as dealing with a blood-hungry mummy and trying to stop the reincarnated Jack the Ripper from continuing on his bloody rampage through the East End of London.
Of course it isn’t quite as simple as that, as St. Cyprian and Gallowglass find out along the way. This Ripper is a fearsome prospect, all rictus grin and predatory grace, as he (or maybe it) rips his way through countless unfortunates who get in the way of his prize : a suitable host body to prolong his stay on the mortal plane. The concept behind the book is great, both in terms of the character of the Royal Occultist (sort of an unwelcome but begrudgingly accepted arm of the government) and the idea of a Ripper of sorts being let loose once again amongst the population of London 30-odd years after his original crimes took place. It’s unashamedly pulpy, charging head first into frantic, fast-paced action full of occult references and monstrous entities; sort of the novel version of films like The Mummy, all post-war stiff upper lip vying with a mystical, occult undercurrent that’s studiously ignored by the public at large. Characters exchange politely-phrased insults in the midst of brutal fights while terms like ‘ectoplasm’, ‘ectenic force’ and ‘aetheric capacity’ are bandied about with relish, with more than one reference to something being ‘just not cricket’ thrown in for good measure.
The emphasis throughout the book is very much on fun (albeit slightly gory fun), and it will undoubtedly appeal to both fans of the occult/horror styles as well as those just looking for something fast-paced and exciting to read. At 200 pages it certainly is a quick read, but Reynolds crams plenty into that short page count to make it worth the reader’s while. With a second novel just released and a slew of other stories available, it’s a great entry point to the Royal Occultist series as well as a worthy addition to this most prolific of writer’s work.