After a career as one of the preeminent horror writers of the 1990s and a break that lasted for several years, Robert McCammon has come back with a vengeance, completely reinventing his career, with an impressive series of historical mysteries set in the American colonies in the early 18th century. The stories center on the adventures of legal clerk and freelance investigator Matthew Corbett.
They began in Speaks the Nightbird, an extraordinary novel which McCammon had not intended to make into a series, but he liked the setting and the characters so much that after making a few chronological revisions he followed it with The Queen of Bedlam and now with a third installment in Mister Slaughter.
It continues the story of Corbett's work for the Herald Agency, based out of New York City, working in partnership with the gruff but formidable Hudson Greathouse. This book picks up directly where The Queen of Bedlam ends, with Corbett and Greathouse taking a commission to retrieve notorious mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter from a madhouse in Pennsylvania and bring him to New York for transport to England to face justice. Of course, the task of retrieving and delivering the abhorrent Slaughter doesn't work out as expected, and the story developes into a grueling pursuit through frontier settlements, indian villages and the centers of colonial civilization, uncovering a shadowy criminal network of which Slaughter is just a part.
The story of Mister Slaughter is engaging and moves along quickly, but what really makes the book stand out is McCammon's attention to developing interesting and complex characters, including his exploration of the nuances of the historical environment which plays a very large role in making the novels in this series as interesting and unique as they are. Corbett gets a lot of development, with his flaws and his virtues placed in striking contrast. He's heroic and capable yet flawed and troubled at the same time.