To Sammy,

the amazing Boy Peacock.


Of the many books I read while writing this novel, several stood out: Liza Picard’s Victorian London 1840-1870: The Life of a City, was a constant companion, not only for this case but for work on the entire Boy Sherlock series; Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert’s The London Encyclopaedia continued to be an immense aid as well; both Stanley Weintraub and Robert Blake’s biographies of Disraeli were essential; as was Philip Callow’s telling of the life of Robert Louis Stevenson. RLS, the great man himself, his insight into the human soul, and his marvelous novels, were a powerful inspiration. Lee Jackson, one of our great historians, whose Dictionary of London website ( was so useful to me and many other researchers, personally gave of his time during the late stages of the creation of Fiend, with invaluable information. I cannot omit the contribution of my father, Jackson Peacock, history teacher and brilliant thinker, who imbued me with a love of the past and has always been available for important discussions on pertinent historical matters. Thanks also to Kathryn Cole, my perfect editor. And to my family again, without whom I could not write a word. Finally, and most importantly this time, to Kathy Lowinger, who is saying “au revoir,” but not farewell, and whom I will greatly miss, as will the whole publishing world.


It appeared out of nowhere, leaping from a bank of the River Thames onto Westminster Bridge one dark, London night like a man endowed by the devil with superhuman powers. Two servant girls, walking arm in arm and frightened by the late hour, barely turned before it was on them. It gave a shriek and then did its deed, ripping one from the other and making off with her across the cobblestones, reaching the other side of the wide bridge in just a few bounds. There, it sprung up onto the balustrade, the limp girl in its arms, and jumped out into the night, its wings fluttering in the cold air as though it were a human bat escaped from the underworld. They struck the freezing water with a crash and the night was silent again, interrupted only by the frightened sobs of the other girl prostrate on the stones. Then she rose and ran as hard as she could, northward, toward Denmark Street.

All the demoniacal force of the man masked behind that listless manner burst out in a paroxysm of energy.”

– Dr. Watson in The Adventure of the Second Stain


There have been many late knocks on the old apothecary’s door. Some even come, like this one, well past midnight. But this is a knock unlike any other. It is accompanied by a scream.

It is the last day of February 1868, a month after Sherlock Holmes’ fourteenth birthday. The Prime Minister of England has just resigned and his right-hand man, the remarkable Jew-turned-Anglican, Benjamin Disraeli, is taking his place. The empire stands on the brink of an historic moment, but some are ill at ease. There are whispers in the streets and taverns, and in the mansions of Mayfair and Belgravia, that the brilliant, black-haired Hebrew with the romantic background and flirtatious manners – he of foreign race – cannot be good for England. It is almost as if a Negro had become president of the United States. Amidst all of this, the country is nearing a turning point: the lower classes are rising, gaining power, demanding more; financial markets are unstable; Irish terrorists, seeking independence from the empire, are bringing their violence to the world’s greatest city. What will the future hold? Many fear that chaos is about to descend.

London is in a deep freeze tonight, but the tall, thin boy is warm and fast asleep in his wardrobe in the laboratory. The knock, though enacted by a slight arm and delicate fist, thunders through the shop. Sherlock gets to his feet in a flash. He pulls his trousers on under his oversized nightshirt, seizes his horsewhip, and rushes across the hard floor of the lab, sure that Sigerson Bell will be down the spiral staircase and by his side before he reaches the door. But there is no sound from the upper floor. In seconds, the boy stands poised at the entrance with his weapon, balanced on his feet, remembering Bell’s instructions. He raises the whip to strike.

“Who is there?”

“Let me in, Sherlock!”

It is a girl’s voice, but not one he knows. Darting to the latticed bow windows, he peeks outside. A young woman stands cowering there, looking behind her every few seconds, like a cornered fox at the end of the hunt. The boy can’t make out her face through the thick glass and darkness, but it appears pale under a red bonnet and her coal-black hair. She seems to be alone.

Sherlock unbolts the entrance with a snap and the girl falls into the shop, gripping his bare feet with her frigid hands, as if she will never let go. She kicks violently at the door, slamming it shut on her second try. Sherlock locks it, bends down, takes her head in his hands, and lifts her face toward him.


“Sherlock! Save me! It took ’er. A fiend from ’ell!”

Her voice is so charged with emotion that it still doesn’t seem like hers. “Lock the door!”

“It’s done. Calm yourself.”

Beatrice Leckie, the plain-dressed hatter’s daughter with the sparkling black eyes and porcelain skin, who has always seemed so interested in everything Sherlock does, is shaking like a leaf.

“Calm yourself,” he repeats.

Sigerson Bell still hasn’t stirred. It seems incredible. How can he sleep through this? But none of the old man’s trombone-like snores are rattling the shop: all remains quiet upstairs.

Sherlock lifts Beatrice to her feet. She feels delicate in his embrace and folds herself into him, clinging like a child might grip its father. He is surprised at how wonderful this feels. In fact, he has to remind himself to set aside the warm feelings invading his senses – they are far too emotional. She has had some terrible experience. He must help her. She may be hysterical, but he cannot be. He has learned to remove feelings from his decision-making: feelings are always illogical. But it is difficult to still them at this moment. Beatrice Leckie is not without attractions. He hadn’t noticed it when they were younger, but it’s

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