It starts with a woman who has hallucinations, and runs into an alleyway where she finds a body that looks just like hers that has been murdered. Later on, she finds a beautiful man who says he's from another parallel universe and seems think he's connected with Arthurian legends, i.e. he talks about Merlin, wizards, and so on.

It starts off looking very magical and predictable, with the woman and the handsome man trying to hunt down the murderer. Then it goes somewhere else entirely.

The handsome stranger turns out to have murdered her clone himself as part of the ritual that would allow his reality to enter hers, and she is actually the clone, and the original was murdered. Her confused memories and hallucinations are because she ran off before the stranger could finish creating a convincing replacement.

The handsome stranger is actually a useful idiot that is handsome and dumb precisely because he's a facade that covers what the traders actually look like.

There were seven murders in total at various points around London -- they thought that it might be Jack the Ripper based, but it turns out the murders occured at ritually significant distances around the city, and that Jack the Ripper was actually the last time they tried this, to open a portal between the worlds.

And there's the Handsome Stranger's manager... who appears as a kindly wizard based on Merlin? Again, he turns out to have been orchestrating the entire thing, and the whole "help us save your reality against evil slimy things" turns out to have been a dispute over trading rights to Earth between two equally slimy organizations.

The book ends with humanity establishing trade and goods with the unbound reality and becoming less and less human -- strange buildings, humans with gecko like arms and legs living on walls, etc. Very creepy, and very hard to forget.

This would have been around 2000 or so.

  • Novel? Or short story, graphic novel etc? And what language - English? Can you remember anything about the cover art? Which country did you read it in?
    – tardigrade
    Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 19:10
  • 1
    Novel. English. Corte Madeira mall in California, around 2001 ish. Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 20:21


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