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Chris High reviews  the Michael Cox novel: The Meaning Of Night


Michael Cox

Publishers: John Murray
ISBN: 0-7195-6835-8
September 7th, 2006

Front cover of the book by Michael Cox: The Meaning Of Night: A Confession

Written by

In writing The Meaning Of Night, author Michael Cox had to overcome many personal obstacles to achieve his aim which, in the event, led the hitherto author of the highly praised biography of ghost-story writer, M.R. James, taking thirty years to complete his first venture into fiction.


Thank goodness the man has perseverance – not since Ian Pears and An Instance Of The Fingerpost has historical-crime fiction been so well crafted, written and presented, with even the cover being worthy of mention.

A cold October night in 1854 and, in a dark passageway, an innocent man is stabbed to death. So begins the extraordinary story of Edward Glyver, book lover, scholar and murderer. As a young boy, Glyver always believed he was destined for greatness and a chance discovery convinces Glyver that he is right: greatness does await him, along with immense wealth and influence and he will stop at nothing to win back a prize that he now knows is rightfully his.

Glyver's path leads him from the depths of Victorian London, with its foggy streets, brothels and opium dens, to Evenwood, one of England's most enchanting country houses. His is a story of betrayal and treachery, of death and delusion, of ruthless obsession and ambition and at every turn, driving Glyver irresistibly onwards, is his deadly rival: the poet-criminal Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.

The Meaning Of Night is a stunning achievement. Written in the first person, the reader is transported by Michael Cox’s superlative prose to an England of long ago which still seems so familiar. The style of writing, faithful to the Victorian period in which it is set and complete with explanatory footnotes, does not slow the pace in any way whatsoever so that rarely is there a page from the 594 – yes, this is hefty tome – on which something does not happen.

Michael Cox’s use of description compels the reader to see, hear and smell the atmosphere of old London town and beyond so clearly, it is almost like “reading” a movie but does not allow the story to become bogged down in the minutiae of misplaced detail that is so often the case with such books. Instead, Michael Cox manages to conjure up a world that is a far cry from Dickens morally but so accurate factually.

Twists, turns and an incredibly well developed storyline combine to make The Meaning Of Night a stunning read from an author who is destined to become a household name with this, his debut novel.

Read an interview with Michael Cox by Chris High on

Order this book online - Linghams Booksellers


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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