Victorian London: a violent cesspool of squalid depravity. Only twelve detectives–the Murder Squad–are expected to solve the thousands of crimes committed here each moth. Formed after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure in capturing Jack the Ripper, the Murder Squad suffers the brunt of public contempt. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…
A Scotland Yard inspector has been found stuffed in a black steamer trunk at Euston Square Station, is eyes and mouth sewn shut. When Walter Day, the squad’s new hire, is assigned to the case, he finds a strange ally in Dr Bernard Kingsley, the Yard’s first forensic pathologist. Their grim conclusion: This was not just a random, bizarre murder: It appears that the police–possibly the squad itself–are being targeted, and the devious killer shows no sign of stopping before completing his grim duty. But Inspector Day has one more surprise, something even more shocking than the crimes: the killer’s motive.
Written by Alex Grecian and published in 2012, I picked up The Yard because I’d had good luck with other period pieces, most notably The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr, both set in New York City in the late 1800s.
Having read the back cover of The Yard, I figured I was in for another great romp through the past.
Well, before I get to the “but,” let me tell you what I liked about The Yard. First, it was pretty well researched. Everything felt like I presumed it should, from the procedures to the conditions to the language, it was all very well done.
Also, it is clear that Alex Grecian can string together a few words into some stellar sentences, and those sentences into paragraphs. He is, clearly, a talented writer.
But, now the “but.”
But overall, the book feels completely disjointed. No only does Grecian tell us–not imply, not hint: TELL–who the killer of the Inspector is a mere fourteen pages in, but the red herring killings he drops in along the way, ostensibly to confuse the Murder Squad–and the reader–are also no surprises. Due to his blunt revelation of the perpetrator(s), we are left with an entire subplot which might have made a really intriguing side investigation–or even a separate novel– but which becomes nothing more than a waste of the police’s–and reader’s–time.
And that’s without mentioning the other side-story involving the death of a chimney sweep’s “apprentice.”
I can’t help but think that Grecian needed a better story editor early on in the development process to either reduce or inflate these side-stories into more meaningful bits of writing: writing he is clearly capable of doing.
I’m not going to tell you NOT to read The Yard, but I’ll tell you that, for my money, I’d still rather re-read the New York pair from Caleb Carr I mentioned earlier.