The Murderer

by Roy A. K. Heath

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Last Updated June 20, 2024.


The Murderer is a novel by Guyanese writer Roy A. K. Heath, first published in 1978 by Allison and Busby. Heath was born in 1926 in Georgetown, Guyana, where most of the novel's events take place.

The novel is a portrait of a man, Galton Flood, whose misogyny pushes him to extremes. Although his mother dies early on in the novel, her presence haunts him throughout his life, as he feels that she broke his father's spirit. Galton ends up hating all the women he encounters, from his overbearing sister-in-law Nekka to his wife Gemma, who sullies his rigid notions of marriage. 

Plot Summary

Galton Flood grows up in Georgetown under the strict watch of his conservative Christian mother. The two people he admires most in life are his father and brother Selwyn, whom he sees as his hero. When he is nineteen, his father dies, followed shortly by his mother. Seeking to establish his independence, Galton decides to move to Linden by himself. 

At Linden, Galton falls in love with Gemma, the daughter of his landlord, Mr. Burrowes. However, his opinion of her is sullied when one of the townspeople informs Galton that Burrowes tries to set up his daughter with all his borders. Galton moves out of Burrowes' house and takes up mining work in the bushlands of the Mazaruni River. 

After two years, Galton decides to return to Georgetown. On his first day home, Selwyn hands him a love letter from Gemma, dated nine months ago. Upon receiving a second letter from Gemma, he decides to marry her. Galton also moves out of his brother's home and into his best friend Winston's house, as Selwyn's wife Nekka is pregnant with their second child. 

On their wedding night, Galton is disappointed to discover that Gemma isn't a virgin. He also grows paranoid and jealous of Winston's overfamiliar treatment of her. One night, he arrives home drunk and demands they leave Winston's house. To Gemma's dismay, Galton moves them into a squalid tenement on Lombard Street. 

One afternoon, Galton's friend, the watchman, visits the tenement and finds Gemma alone. She confides in him that she had a visitor over while Galton was at work—a man with whom she has a child. The watchman advises Gemma to be honest with Galton, but she doesn't tell her husband about her child. 

Eventually, a neighbor informs Galton of Gemma's visitor. Although Gemma admits to it when he confronts her, she insists that she must have some freedom even though they are married. This angers Galton, who believes a wife must have "complete subservience" towards her husband. 

Galton brings Gemma to the local wharf under false pretenses. Under the cover of night, he murders her with a wooden plank and dumps her body into the river. His life goes by without incident for a few months until Mr. Burrowes visits him to ask why Gemma hasn't written home in so long. Galton simply replies that she has left him. 

Soon after, Galton accepts Selwyn's offer to move back into their house. He then receives a letter from Burrowes, who complains that the police refuse to assist him with Gemma's disappearance. When Galton returns to the wharf where he murdered Gemma, he notices a stranger spying on him. 

On Christmas Eve, Galton receives a visit from Nekka's cousin Mildred, who implores him to fix her mother's radio in time for Christmas. This marks the beginning of a romance between the two. However, their relationship is cut short by Mildred's father, who reasons that there is no future in dating a married man. 


(This entire section contains 780 words.)

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the first time since moving out of their house, Galton visits Winston, who has recently declared bankruptcy. He then arrives home to find Burrowes and Mr. Giles, whom he learns is the father of Gemma's child and the man he saw at the wharf. The two already suspect that Galton murdered Gemma. While Galton admits to the crime, he refuses to go anywhere with them. 

Galton redirects his anger to Nekka, accusing her of aiding Burrowes and Giles and sabotaging his relationship with Mildred. Selwyn and his family keep their doors locked for fear of Galton hurting them. 

Soon, Galton receives another visit from Giles, who wishes to get more information on Gemma. However, Galton does not wish to talk. Before leaving, Giles tells Galton that Burrowes will not report him to the police as he is too afraid of raising a scandal. In the passing weeks, Galton gradually loses his mind. He takes to roaming the streets silently, eventually becoming known as the madman of Georgetown.