The Bedlam Stacks

With The Bedlam Stacks, Natasha Pulley (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street) has crafted an elaborate world of magic and mystery, one set in 19th-century Peru and providing readers with an abundance of surprises at every turn.

Merrick Tremayne, a smuggler whose lineage includes explorers and adventurers, is living at his brother's estate while recuperating from a leg injury. Strange happenings occur on the grounds--statues move, for starters--and soon he becomes desperate to leave. Such an opportunity presents itself through Merrick's friend Clem: malaria is reaching epidemic proportions in India and quinine, a substance found in the cinchona trees located in the Peruvian forests, is an effective treatment. The East India Company is offering a substantial sum for the two to travel to Peru and bring back seeds for planting. Initially uncertain, Merrick agrees to join Clem on the expedition.

Arriving in Peru, they meet Raphael, a priest with mystical qualities who serves as their guide. As they travel deeper into the forest, their journey becomes filled with increasing danger and mysterious forces--and the realization that Raphael's connection to Merrick spans generations and transcends time. "Forward for the past, back for the future" is a poetic, recurring phrase in The Bedlam Stacks that echoes and supports the novel's themes of discovering one's place in a familial legacy and how the experiences of our ancestors have relevance to our purpose in life.

Pulley is masterful at infusing The Bedlam Stacks with just the right amount of magical realism and mystery, making this story reminiscent of classic adventure tales of old while being relevant to today. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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