Excerpt from The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Meaning of Night

A Confession

by Michael Cox

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox X
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 672 pages
    Oct 2007, 704 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

You must understand that I am not a murderer by nature, only by temporary design. There was no need to repeat this experimental act of killing. I had proved what I had set out to prove: the capacity of my will to carry out such a deed. The blameless red-haired stranger had fulfilled his purpose, and I was ready for what now lay ahead.

I walked to the Surrey side of the bridge, turned round, and walked back again. Then, on a sudden impulse, as I passed once more through the turnstile, I decided to retrace my steps along the Strand instead of returning to my rooms.  At the foot of the steps leading down from Cain-court, which I had descended not two hours earlier, a crowd of people had gathered. I enquired of a flower-seller concerning the cause of the commotion.

‘Murder, sir,’ she replied. ‘A poor gentleman has been most viciously done to death. They say the head was almost severed from the body.’

‘Good heavens!’ said I, with every expression of sudden shock. ‘What a world we live in! Is anyone apprehended?’

My informant was uncertain on this point. A Chinese sailor had been seen running from the court a little time before the body had been discovered; but others had said that a woman carrying a bloody axe had been found standing in a daze a few streets away, and had been taken away by the officers.

I shook my head sadly, and continued on my way.

Of course it was most convenient that ignorant rumour was already weaving nets of obscurity and falsehood around the truth. For all I cared, either the Chinese sailor or the woman with the bloody axe, if, indeed, they existed, could swing for my deed and be damned. I was armoured against all suspicion. Certainly no one had observed me entering or leaving the dark and deserted court; I had been most particular on that point. The knife had been of a common type, purloined for the purpose from a hotel across the river in the Borough, where I had never been before, and to which I would never return again. My nameless victim had been entirely unknown to me; nothing but cold Fate connected us. My clothes appeared to be unmarked by his blood; and night, villainy’s true friend, had thrown its accomplice’s cloak over all.

By the time I reached Chancery-lane the clocks were striking eleven. Still feeling unwilling to return to my own solitary bed, I swung northwards, to Blithe Lodge, St John’s Wood, with the intention of paying my compliments to Miss Isabella Gallini, of blessed memory.

Ah, Bella! Bellissima Bella! She welcomed me in her customary way at the door of the respectable tree-fronted villa, cupping my face in her long-fingered, many-ringed hands and whispering, ‘Eddie, darling Eddie, how wonderful,’ as she kissed me gently on both cheeks. 

‘Is all quiet?’ I asked.

‘Perfectly. The last one went an hour ago, Charlie is asleep, and Mrs D. has not yet returned. We have the house to ourselves.’

Upstairs I lay back on her bed watching her disrobe, as I had done so many times before. I knew every inch of her body, every warm and secret place. Yet watching the last piece of clothing fall to the floor, and seeing her standing proudly before me, was like experiencing her for the first time in all her untasted glory.

‘Say it,’ she said.

I frowned in pretended ignorance.

‘Say what?’

‘You know very well, you tease. Say it.’

She walked towards me, her hair now released and flowing over her shoulders and down her back. Then, reaching the bed, she once again clasped my face in her hands and let that dark torrent of tresses tumble around me.

Excerpted from The Meaning of the Night, copyright (c) 2006 by Michael Cox. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, W.W.Norton and Company. All rights reserved

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Eat the Apple
    Eat the Apple
    by Matt Young
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Matt Young's memoir tackles the space in between truth and ...
  • Book Jacket: Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Tara Westover had the kind of upbringing most of us can only imagine. She was the youngest of seven ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Y L D W D, Y'll G U W Fleas

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.