Monday, September 9, 2013

The Yard: Review

London is still reeling from the reign of terror brought on by Jack the Ripper.  Scotland Yard has lost a great deal of the respect the populace had in its police force--all because it could not bring the Ripper to justice.  In the wake of this failure, Sir Edward Bradford, the new Commissioner of Police, creates the Murder Squad--an elite team of 12 detectives who will take on the most heinous crimes.  The Squad is immediately put to the test when one of their own is found brutally stabbed and disfigured, stuffed into a steamer trunk and left in the Euston Square Station.  

Detective Inspector Walter Day is about to get a baptism by fire.  Fresh from Devon, he is plunged into his first murder case--as the lead Inspector.  He can't afford to fail--not only are his fellow officers watching to see how the new man will work out, but how can the public feel safe if even police officers are being struck down?  Fortunately, Day has the backing of Sir Edward and the help of Inspector Blacker, a veteran detective, Constable Hammersmith, a dedicated young policeman whose sense of justice in the death of a young chimney sweep will help lead to the killer, and Dr. Bernard Kingsley, the doctor and coroner who examines the body.

This novel is a whirlwind of Victorian era murder and mayhem.  There is the main story--the horrific killings of police officers (yes, there will be more murders).  But there is also the "Beard Killer," a murderer who shaves and then kills his victims.  There are two prostitutes who are haunted by the shadow of the Ripper....and who take their own precautions against his return.  There is a kidnapped boy and the death of the 5-year-old chimney sweep's apprentice.  

And there is atmosphere--plenty of Victorian atmosphere.  From the hansom cabs waiting at the corner, to the early days of forensics, to the elderly doctor who still believes in bleeding his patients (yikes!).  Gas light and fog.  Alex Grecian does a good job setting the stage.  He is also very adept with his characters--I instantly like Day, Blacker, Hammersmith and Kinglsey.  I enjoy them individually and I enjoy seeing their early work together.  I think Grecian has the makings of a good series in his hands--and I hope the next book (which I need to order up at the library...) fulfills the promise.  

One thing you should know--this is an inverted mystery.  There is no secret about the killer's identity.  We know who it is and we get to see his thoughts and begin to understand his motives long before the police figure out who it is.  This sort of story doesn't always work for me--but it does here.  I'll be interested to see if Grecian uses the same formula for the next book.  In the meantime...this one is a good, solid three-star beginning to the series.

8 comments:

Yvette said...

Bev, I enjoyed reading this review. My library doesn't have a copy of THE YARD, but it does have a copy of Grecian's second book, THE BLACK COUNTRY. Talk about dark atmosphere. Yikes.
But I didn't enjoy the book enough to write a review of it. Except to say that this is a very dark book full of really nasty stuff. So be warned. I also felt that the characterization of the cops was not as strong as it could have been. I didn't much like anyone so I can't really recommend it.

I'm eager to know what you think of this second book.

DesLily said...

I read this book some time ago and to my surprise I enjoyed it.. and so I have his next book waiting in "the pile"! I hope it's as good as the first one!

Bev Hankins said...

Yvette: I'm sad to hear that you didn't think the characterization of the policemen was very strong in the second book. That's one of things I liked best about this first one--it's all very tentative (since we're all just getting to know one another and learn to work together) and I hope that the second book would build on that. Not sounding likely--but I'll probably give it a whirl anyway.

DesLily: We'll have to see what we think of that second one....

jd1284 said...

This sounds interesting. I like mystery books set in this time period. I'll have to pick this one up. Good review.

Lynn said...

I read this a while ago and also enjoyed it. I hadn't thought about No.2 though! Doh!! Must get with the programme.
Lynn :D

Jaime said...

I started this last year and never finished it, not because it wasn't interesting, just that other books caught my attention. This review really makes me want to pick it up again.

Yvette said...

Can't wait to hear what you think of that second book, Bev.

samantha.1020 said...

This sounds like a really good read and I can't wait to read it myself :) Thanks for sharing...I'm definitely grabbing this one from library next time that I'm there!