Grecian, A. (2012). The Yard. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Paperback $15.95, Hardcover Price $26.95, Kindle $7.99, 432 pages
Author’s Website and Internviews:
http://www.wordriot.org/archives/5248 (Author interview)
The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/the-yard-alex-grecian
Annotation: The case of Jack the Ripper still haunts the Murder Squad as they now must hunt down another evil intent on exacting revenge against them.
Summary: Set in 1889 in London, the city is beginning to recover from the Metropolitan Police’s botched capture of notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. After the Murder Squad, a group of twelve men from the Scotland Yard is formed, they are sidelined by yet another grisly murder, this time one of their own. The mangled and tortured body of Officer Christian Little is discovered at Euston Square Station, stuffed in a black trunk. With his lips and eyes sewn shut, the Murder Squad know this is not their run of the mill killings they are used to. The squad’s new hire Walter Day is immediately put on the case and forms an alliance with Dr. Bernard Kingsley, the yard’s self-appointed forensic pathologist. The Murder Squad along with the help of Dr. Kingsley work together to uncover the identity and motive of the killer whose killings are steadily rising. However, there are three killers at work, as the bodies of beardless men submerged in water are being discovered all over town. The squad works to uncover whether the murders are connected and if they are dealing with a copy cat killer, mirroring the sadistic acts of infamous Jack the Ripper, or if it is Jack himself back to toy with an already vulnerable squad. Through the forensic testing developed by Dr. Kingsley, the Murder Squad gets a break in the case and are able to identify finger prints found on the murder weapon, a pair of tailor’s sheers. After countless losses the squad discovers the murder’s identity and true motive behind Officer Little’s death.
Evaluation: I was initially hesitant to read this book as I do not typically gravitate towards mystery/crime novels especially ones involving members of the Scotland Yard in Victorian London. However, I was immediately hooked within the first few pages and was desperate to know how one of their own detectives wound up murdered, stuffed in a trunk, and left at the train station. I loved that the author told the story from various characters points of view as it allowed me to connect and become invested in the characters on a deeper level. I also thought telling parts of the story from the point of view of the killer really added to the suspense as you weren’t ever sure what his true motives were until the very end. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery/crime novels and who are not squeamish as parts of the book depict killings in a very graphic way. The historical aspect of the book would also appeal to anyone interested in Victorian Era London and/or the case of Jack the Ripper as this book explores the psyche of a serial killer who kills not only for vengeance but for pleasure.
Appeal Factors: Page turner, fast-moving, compelling storyline and characters. Atmospheric, melancholy, gritty, and richly detailed.
Read-alike Titles and Authors:
The Fiend in Human by John Gray
Pentecost Alley by Anne Perry
The Bedlam Detective: A Novel by Stephen Gallagher
Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper by Lyndsay Faye
2013 Strand Magazine’s Critics Award: Best Novel Nominee
- Read an excerpt that details one of the killings to increase its shock value.
- Jump from scenes of the killings to scenes of the bald man. Let the audience establish any connections. Also could jump from scenes of Fenn and the bald man to the scenes of the bodies being discovered.
- This book could easily be adapted to a game of clue or “Who Done It?” Have the audience make predictions based on evidence.
Book Discussion Questions:
1. What drove the “bald man” to kidnap boys? In your opinion, does his reasoning lessen his guilt?
2. What do you make of the form of torture inflicted on the officers such as stitching their eyes and lips shut while they are alive? What is the symbolism behind it? And what does this tell us about the killer?
3. Why does the killer choose to leave the bodies at a busy train station? Do you think he secretly wants to be discovered?
4. How did you feel about the young boy discovered in the chimney? Do you think Constable Hammersmith’s need to take maters into his own hands was appropriate? Why or why not? What does this say about his character in comparison to the others?
5. Did you ever suspect Dr. Kingsley of guilt for the murders of the officers? If so, give a specific passage or quote that caused you to think this?
6. What do you think Grecian is trying to say about the morality of London at this time? What does the transition from killing for revenge to killing for pleasure say about society at this time?
I initially chose this book because my classmates chose it for their discussion group and I have not read many mystery/crime books. I love books that are set in Victoria Era London and was intrigued by its connection to Jack the Ripper. I am not usually drawn to books whose main characters are all male, but I found that the male characters were extremely well-developed, complex, layered, and resonated a strong emotional presence that I often associate more with female characters. The book progresses at a rapid pace and takes you on a twists and turns journey to uncover a killer whose strikes are becoming more cold and calculated. It is a definite page turner and it left me NEEDING to read the next installment.