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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Yard by Alex Grecian

Title: The Yard
Author: Alex Grecian
Publisher: Putnam Books
Genre: Historical Mystery
Pages: 422
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.
My Rating: 4 Crowns

Synopsis: 1889, London.  Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror is finally over, but a new one is just beginning…

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?

*Synopsis taken from the back of the book

My Review: It’s difficult for me to imagine a time when police work didn’t involve fingerprinting and the forensics we have today, but we all know that time existed.  The Yard takes us back to that time, with Jack the Ripper fresh in the memory of the public, and a lot of people calling into question the ability of the police.

This novel opens with the discovery of a body in a trunk at a train station.  The body belongs to Inspector Little, and no one knows why he is dead, just that it likely has something to do with his work.  Without the use of modern technology, even determining what weapon might have been used to kill someone is difficult, let alone tracing down the person who did the killing.

Due to his newness to the squad, Inspector Walter Day is tapped to head up the investigation into who could have murdered one of their own.  This gives Inspector Day the chance to prove himself and hopefully answer the question – is London really for him?  He’s joined by a doctor who has taken it upon himself to start studying the dead, an Inspector who vouched for him for no real reason, and a Constable who is pulled into the investigation for purely personal reasons.

This story is a mystery in the sense of wondering if and how the police will figure out who their killer is, and worrying about what else might happen along the way.  As the reader, we know who the killer is somewhat early on, but that didn’t make it any less suspenseful for me.  Something I thought very early on was…why leave this body in a trunk at the train station, where it’s sure to be found relatively quickly?  Why not throw it in the Thames?  But we’re dealing with a madman, and there are no real logical answers in that sort of situation.

I was fascinated by how the police work was done in this novel.  It seems pretty accurate, even for today – you get talented people looking into things, but it also comes to luck and the knack for being at the right place at the right time.  Whether any of this was accurate or not isn’t necessarily important to me.  I was entertained and I enjoyed the ride.  I didn’t want to put the novel down, despite the gruesome nature of some of the scenes.  An all-around lovely suspense story!

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Heather R said...

I hadn't heard of this book before but I am adding it to my TBR. I am not the biggest historical mystery fan, but I do enjoy reading about the early days of investigation in London as it is so interesting how they solved crimes without the modern technology we have today.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Those kinds of things really fascinate me too. There was a lot of talk and speculation about "finger marks", which is always an interesting topic to me. Hope you enjoy it when you pick it up!

JaneGS said...

This is on my Amazon wish list and every review I read reminds me how much I want to read it. I like your comments about finding the police work of the time interesting--we do take a lot for granted. Sounds so interesting.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

@JaneGS - It seems easy to lose sight of the fact that the art of crime solving has been an evolving thing over time. I mean, back in the timeframe this takes place in, you could be sentenced to death simply if enough people didn't like you and testified against you!