Be smart - read books, another one The Yard by Alex Grecian
25 Jun 2012 21:30:38
The scene is London, 1889, a year after Jack the Ripper's last victim died, and the city is struggling to come to terms with his crimes. When the body of a Scotland Yard detective is found in a trunk, his lips and eyes sewn shut, and a series of bearded men are found brutally murdered, their faces neatly shaved, it looks like at least one more serial killer is on the loose. The new man on the Yard's murder squad, Walter Day, just up from Devon, is put on the grisly case, with the help of forensic science pioneer Dr Bernard Kingsley. But can they find the killer before more people die? Grecian switches between the perspectives of his bald killer, nervously watching the police on his tail and offing anyone who stumbles upon his secret, and those of various policemen on the trail of a tangled array of criminals. He handles their disbelief, their horror, that another serial killer could be plaguing London in the wake of the Ripper, very well. "The Ripper was out there somewhere in the grey city. Or perhaps the Ripper was dead and gone, having destroyed the confidence of The Yard and of the citizens who no longer trusted The Yard to protect them," he writes. "Whether he was gone or not, it hardly mattered. Saucy Jack had gifted them all the idea of himself. Others like him circled like lions around the herd. The city was changed ... He opened a door to certain deranged possibilities and there will be more like him." The American author, who previously created the graphic novel series Proof, "remarkably never visited London before or during the writing of The Yard", boasts his publisher. He has done well, then, to summon up such an atmospheric, disturbing vision of the city at the end of the 19th century, from the match girl killed by phosphorus poisoning to the horrors of the workhouse. And he's a dab hand at fearsomely gruesome murders and autopsies. It's a shame his research didn't extend to his dialogue, however, which is peppered with anachronisms ("no worries"; "He's gonna hurt me"). And did he really have to call his Welsh coalminers' village Collier, and one of his London detectives Hammersmith? There are also terrible puns, his policemen have a nasty habit of falling asleep in tight spots, and a few too many subplots. But don't let that put you off. Grecian is making no pretensions to a highbrow literary version of Victorian London, so don't expect one. Instead this debut – the first in a series – is a pell-mell race to a frankly preposterous finale: gory, lurid and tons of guilty fun.