Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Grim, Gritty Murder Mystery a Compelling Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"'I think there's too many of us people and we're too close together and we're turning on each other like rats in the gutter.  We're in the biggest city in the world, Day, and I think it's trying to get rid of us'" (176).

The grimy streets of Victorian London teem with criminal activity, from the petty thefts of starving urchins to the enslavement of desperate women to the vicious unsolved killings of Jack the Ripper.  Considering the always-rising tide of violence that plagues the city, the number of men assigned to combat it is laughable.  Only twelve detectives—The Murder Squad—investigate London's most serious crimes.  Severely overworked and chronically underpaid, their shameful solve rate guarantees they are met with derision everywhere they turn.  Wading through the city's hellish underbelly to flush out murderers and monsters is a job rife with danger, devoid of glamour.  It's not a career to which most people would aspire.  

Detective Inspector Walter Day is not most people.  Having worked as a constable in Devon for the last four years, he has no actual detecting experience.  And yet, the idealistic newbie is working the murder of the Squad's own Inspector Christian Little.  The detective's odd and gruesome murder raises a million questions, few answers.  Is Day up to the task of finding Little's sadistic killer?  As more policemen end up dead, the case grows more complex—and deadly.  Day must solve it before his own dead body ends up stuffed into a steamer trunk.  He has little time to prove himself against a masterful murderer ... can he do it in time to save his colleagues and himself?

The Yard, Alex Grecian's debut novel and the first installment in a gritty crime series, brings 19th Century London to life in all its stinking, sleazy, squalid glory.  The story, naturally, echoes the tone of its setting.  Although Day is a likable and admirable man, the sewage in which he slops every day makes his tale a grim one.  Compelling, yes, but also depressing.  Nevertheless, The Yard is an engrossing, atmospheric mystery from which I had a hard time looking away.  I especially liked the interludes that provided needed backstory without interrupting the forward push of the plot.  Intriguing characters and sharp prose added even more to this surprising, satisfying novel.  I enjoyed it overall and will definitely be grabbing its sequels off the library shelves sometime soon.  

(Readalikes: I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

4 comments:

  1. I love books that take place in London! Glad to hear it has lots more than that going for it.

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  2. For something somewhat like it - the TV show, Ripper Street. Pretty much everything you just described.

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  3. I think this is a series I might have to try; I like mysteries set in London, even grim and gritty ones. :)

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  4. This does sound good - especially since I see Kay's comparison to Ripper Street which is a show I really enjoy. I've been a little worried about the grimness of it but it sounds like it balances out to an entertaining read.

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