The Yard by Alex Grecian
Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2012
The Short Version:
It’s really suspense more than mystery combined with a Victorian London setting that make this dark and moody story a winner.
Why I Read It:
Historical fiction and mystery together is often a winning combination for me and the initial descriptions and reviews of this one looked promising.
In 1889 London, Scotland Yard is viewed with some skepticism by much of the public for their failure to capture Jack the Ripper. But Jack has changed the way that murderers are viewed by the Yard’s twelve member Murder Squad. When one of their own becomes the victim of a brutal murder, the case is assigned to the newest member of the squad, Walter Day.
Day finds that much of his best investigative information comes via Dr. Bernard Kingsley who is able to identify leads due to his study of the emerging field of forensics. He is also assisted by a young constable by the name of Hammersmith who becomes involved in the murder case while conducting his own unauthorized investigation into the death of a young boy.
Day, Kingsley and Hammersmith are only part of an extensive cast of characters which includes the killer himself. Interspersed in the story of the investigation are scenes from the viewpoint of the initially unidentified killer. Because the reader learns the killer’s identity before the detectives it becomes more of a suspense story than a mystery.
There are multiple story lines of other crimes that may be connected to the initial murder of the detective. All of them wind around the streets of London and in and out of Scotland Yard headquarters.
As soon as I finished this book I checked the author’s website in hopes that a second book featuring at least some of the characters was in the works. I was very happy to see that Grecian is working on a second in a possible series.
Mentally put the detectives and squad room atmosphere of NYPD Blue or some comparable TV crime show in the middle of Victorian London and you’ll get a feel for this book. It’s a police procedural but it’s also historical fiction and the blend worked well for me. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to hearing what The Hubster thinks when he reads it.
I liked the primary characters. Day was a bit dense at times but still likeable enough. Hammersmith was oozing earnestness and while plunging ahead and getting in over his head became his routine, I couldn’t help hoping he’d come through and be the kind of policeman he hoped to be. Kingsley was interesting and while his early forensics were perhaps a bit too easily accepted by the others, I found his character and role in the story interesting. All three are fleshed out as characters by flashbacks which give a glimpse into their past histories.
Grecian blends fact and fiction in an entertaining way with an interesting setting and characters. The story plays out over a period of just a few days and the exhaustion and lack of sleep play into the feeling and mood as the story progresses.
I’ll be watching for the release of the next book in this series and definitely recommend this one.