by Alex Grecian
Fiction — Historical, Mystery
Putnam; May 2012
From the back cover:
“Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives–known as ‘The Murder Squad’–to investigate thousands of murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, the Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…one of twelve…
When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with the Murder Squad…but why?
Filled with fascinating period detail, and real historical figures, this spectacular debut in a new series reveals the depravity of late Victorian London, showcases the advent of criminology, and introduces a stunning new cast of characters sure to appeal to fans of The Sherlockian and The Alienist.”
If you are a fan of graphic novels, you may recognize Alex Grecian as the author of the long-running series Proof. The Yard is Grecian’s first novel and it’s a good murder mystery set in Victorian London.
The Yard is split up into three major sections, one for each day that it takes Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to figure out who is killing its men and to hunt the killer down. What makes Grecian’s novel a bit different from other murder mysteries is the revealing of the murderer to readers very early on in the book. To readers the book then becomes more of a thriller in which we watch the Murder Squad struggle to figure out what we already know before any more of them are killed. My first thought when the killer was revealed was, ‘Oh, man! This sucks. Now I can’t try to figure it out on my own. This book isn’t going to work.’ But it did work, and it worked very well. Knowing the identity of the killer didn’t at all take away from the thrill of watching the Murder Squad try to figure it out in a very limited amount of time (three days wasn’t a lot of time when the police officers of Victorian London didn’t have all of the resources and technology that our police officers have today). Additionally, other crimes are taking place in the city throughout the course of the investigation and the clues left behind during those crimes are getting (unknowingly) confused with clues from the case the Murder Squad is working on. This also adds to the angst the reader feels while watching the Murder Squad do its thing. All of the different plot lines come together to make a very interesting mystery/thriller that is very enjoyable to read.
Just as I enjoyed reading about historical New York City in Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham, I enjoyed reading about Victorian London and the general feeling of its citizens in the wake of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree. I don’t know a whole lot about the evolution of criminology, so it was interesting to learn about one of the first branches of criminology to be made official by Scotland Yard and other law enforcement agencies. As happens with any new discovery or technology that people are unfamiliar with, the people who would benefit the most from the discovery of this branch of criminology scoffed at it and didn’t take it very seriously. It was funny to me to read about this particular method being made fun of when it is something that we take for granted today as one of the most widely used criminal tracking methods.
The characters in The Yard are well-written, although the book is obviously very plot-based. The bad guy is extremely creepy and makes my skin crawl. Walter Day makes a very good character for readers to follow through the rest of the series, provided that’s who the series continues to follow in the future. I also really like Dr. Kingsley and the man who becomes his assistant at the end of the story. I’m looking forward to reading more about all of them.
Alex Grecian knows how to write a good mystery/thriller with multi-dimensional characters and an interesting plot. The Yard is a real page-turner. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and mystery novels.
(To learn more about Alex Grecian, please visit his website.)
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(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)