Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Yard: Alex Grecian

From a summary at the author's website:
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."

"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."
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.

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.

Submitted for the 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.

28 comments:

  1. I read this book and enjoyed it... enough that I bought his second book and recently finished that one... I like his style of writing and he keeps me from setting the book down.

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    1. DesLily, Glad you liked the 2nd one. I had read mixed reviews of that one, but I still want to read it.

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  2. Tracy - Oh, yes! I remember you mentioned this book and that you liked it. Thanks for the full-on review. This is definitely something that interests me!

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    1. Margot, I enjoyed it a lot and though it was especially good for a debut novel. Hope you like it if you read it.

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  3. An interesting book Tracy, but not one that grabs me to be honest. I'm probably not that interested in the period combined with the setting.

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    1. Col, I understand and you have plenty of books to read already. Glen is actually the one in our family who is more interested in this time period, and especially in Jack the Ripper. (And it is his book, which he has not read yet.) But I enjoyed it. It is a lot like Ripper Street, the TV series.

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  4. Oooh, I haven't heard of this one, and am always drawn to creepy misty Victorian London settings. However, I'm not so keen on books where you find out whodunnit early on in the book though - I prefer to be surprised at the end! Will definitely keep an eye out for this though.

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  5. Marie, your description is perfect: creepy misty Victorian London. I did not mind finding out the killer close to the start, but I don't really like serial killer scenarios. But this one worked OK for me.

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  6. I read the second book in this series, THE BLACK COUNTRY, because my library, for whatever reason doesn't have THE YARD. I must say I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. It had a very high creep quotient which I didn't mind at all, it's just that the story didn't quite work for me. But I'll read the next one just in case...

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    1. Yvette, based on what I have read about the 2nd book, not sure I will like it. But I did like the first well enough to continue and see how the series progresses.

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  7. Glad to hear this worked TracyK and I will keep an eye out but most fo the time I do tend to feel that the serial killer / mastemind murderer genre has pretty much played itself out for me

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    1. Sergio, I am pretty tired of serial killers in crime fiction, but I have so many unread books with that theme... so I am sure I will read more. I will just try to space them out.

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  8. I liked this one when I read it, too. I haven't gotten around to the second yet.

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    1. Carol, I liked this and I guess the serial killer theme makes sense within the context. I hope I enjoy the next one as well, when I get to it.

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  9. Planning to read this one when I can get hold of a copy. Nice review.

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    1. Thanks, Cath. I am sure you will like the book when you get to it.

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  10. For some bizarre reason, I've been hesitant to read this one. Maybe one day, right now, I think I'm starting to burn out on mystery/suspense/thriller books.

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    1. Ryan, I was under the mistaken impression that this was cozy-ish. It isn't... not even close. But I liked the characters. If you are burning out on suspense and thrillers, a break couldn't hurt. Fortunately you like a variety of genres.

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  11. Nicely reviewed, Tracy. I'm intrigued by the plot. In fact, I haven't read a Scotland Yard mystery in some years. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

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    1. Thank you, Prashant. Scotland Yard, Victorian London, all perfect for me. I hope you give it a try sometime.

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  12. It sounds like a good book, Tracy. I love the wonderfully atmospheric cover.

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    1. Sarah, it is a lovely cover. It does convey a brooding atmosphere, but it does not convey the darkness of the book.

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  13. Wow, this sounds really interesting! I love the cover too and I also like that the events seem to be embedded in the context of the time in which they're taking place in that they're events that couldn't happen quite the same way in any other time period. I think that would make it more fun to read :)

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    1. Katie, it is interesting. It is very true to the times, or at least what I know of them. I am afraid the 2nd one will be even darker; I hope not.

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  14. As one of your commenters said above, love the idea of misty creepy Victorian London. Will keep an eye out for this one.

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    1. Moira, I guess I was expecting a different (non-creepy) Victorian London... showing that I don't know a lot about that time period. All the more reason to read more in that series.

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  15. I read this, I think for last year's RIP, and also really enjoyed it. I haven't read No.2 yet but will do eventually.
    Lynn :D

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    1. Lynn, it is definitely an interesting time to read about. I am also reading another series set at about the same time period, but in Canada. I have only read one of them, and it is less dark.

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