Victorian London is a cesspool of crime and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives – known as “The Murder Squad” – to investigate countless 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…This book is about a serial killer, but at this point of time in England, the idea of serial killers was not an accepted one, and many did not want to believe that such a thing could be happening. As often happens in serial killer novels, we do know from early in the book who the killer is, but there are still mysteries enough to keep us in suspense.
I enjoyed reading about this period in time. I found the picture the author draws of Victorian London to be very well done. If in some ways he is heavy-handed in his descriptions and scene-setting, I was intrigued and barely noticed.
One theme is the plight of children in this society. One body that is discovered is that of a very young boy who was stuck in a chimney. A detective tries to convince the constable that found the body that this is not a crime worth pursuing.
"You must stop thinking of this body as a boy. This is a laborer. A chimney climber, in the employ of a sweep, whose job it was to climb the inside walls of this chimney and clean it out. This person was doing his job, and he had that job because of his small size, not because of his age. His age is irrelevant here."I liked the development of the main characters, the primary policeman who is investigating the crime and the constables who work with the detectives. Based on the author's depiction of Scotland Yard, before the Ripper murders there had not been detectives whose primary focus was murder. This group is just starting to work together on this common goal, and they are working out the strategies that work.
"Surely not, sir." Hammersmith was unable to rein in his temper any longer. "His size is directly related to his age. This is completely illegal. Small children are stolen from their parents by sweeps for this very purpose. They're used and cast aside when they grow too large to do the job properly. This is not some instrument of service, as you say; this is a little boy."
"No, this is a dead end. His employer didn't care enough about him to pull him from the fireplace, nor did his family step forward to ask for help. Nobody cares about this body, and it is not our job to take up lost causes."
Sir Edward Bradford, the Commissioner of Police, was a real person who did bring changes and improvements to Scotland Yard. The new detective in the Murder Squad is Detective Inspector Walter Day, who has recently moved from Devon. He is inexperienced but determined to do a good job.
If I have any complaints at all, they are minor. There were many threads to the story, and at times the story felt scattered. I felt that the various threads worked in the service of delivering a fuller picture of the times and the classes.
Alphabet in Crime Fiction for the letter Y. This community meme is hosted by Mysteries In Paradise.
Also for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Reviews for that event are here.