The Black Country
by Alex Grecian
Fiction — Mystery / Crime Fiction
Putnam Adult; May 21, 2013
From the book:
The British Midlands. It’s called the “Black Country” for a reason. Bad things happen there.
When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village–and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest–the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad. Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they’re about to get into. The villagers have intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions abound. And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.
Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help. In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave…
The Black Country is the second book in Alex Grecian’s Murder Squad series, and it is just as good as the first book (The Yard, which I read and reviewed last year). I am becoming very attached to Inspector Day, Dr. Kingsley, and Henry (Dr. Kingsley’s assistant). The banter between Inspector Day and Sergeant Hammersmith is even better than I remember it. While I really enjoyed The Yard and jumped at the chance to read and review The Black Country when it was offered to me by the publisher, The Black Country has me resting assured that I will want to read every book in this series.
In The Black Country, Inspector Day, Sergeant Hammersmith, and Dr. Kingsley head to the village of Blackhampton in what is called the “Black Country.” The synopsis of the book above says the nickname comes from the bad things that happen there, but it carries other meanings, too. Blackhampton is a mining town, and so there is much that is black about the village. Three people of the village have disappeared–a mother, father, and little boy of the same family–and the local constable in Blackhampton has done all he can without calling in the big guys from Scotland Yard. What Day, Hammersmith, and Kingsley find in Blackhampton over the course of the two days they spend there is a community of people who are torn between not liking outsiders but wanting help finding the three missing villagers (particularly the little boy). They also find superstition, a strange illness that is making more than half the villagers sick, and a stranger who has been hanging out in the village who seems to have a shoddy past and secrets of his own. Oh, and The Black Country includes a character with the worst facial-injury-turned-deformity EVER.
I enjoyed everything about this book–Grecian’s succinct writing style; the further development of the main characters, including their backstories and their relationships with one another; the mystery itself; the time frame in which the story takes place; the historical bits about superstition, mining towns in the late 19th century, and the Civil War; and the twists in the story that kept me guessing. Just when I thought I had things figured out, Grecian would throw me a curve ball…and the big TA-DA moment in the book is pretty shocking. I just didn’t want to believe it. Good stuff.
If you enjoy reading good crime fiction, particularly crime fiction that takes place in England in the late 19th century, I recommend Alex Grecian’s Murder Squad series. The writing and the stories are good, the characters are well-developed, the main characters in particular are good people, and the historical elements are very interesting. The Black Country comes out today, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
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