The Yard, by Alex Grecian
Walter Day has only recently been appointed as an Inspector with New Scotland Yard and is unsure why he deserved this promotion and if he is up to the job, when a gruesome discovery is made in a London train station. The repeatedly stabbed body of Inspector Christian Little is found inside a suitcase, his eyes and mouth sewn shut. Little was one of only twelve Scotland Yard Inspectors but nobody had noticed that he was missing and nobody had been looking for him when his remains were discovered.
The year is 1889 and Scotland Yard has only been operating for a year. Created after the London police failed to identify and capture Jack the Ripper the new murder squad consists of only 12 investigators who between them have to deal with all the murders in London. With the public’s trust in the metropolitan police at an all time low the last thing the newly formed Yard needs is another serial killer (even if both the term and the phenomenon are still unknown at the time), especially one targeting police officers.
Walter Day is the first investigator on the scene of the gruesome discovery and is soon joined by Dr. Bernard Kingsley, Scotland Yard’s first forensic pathologist. Together these two men will head the investigation into the murder of Little, working the few clues they have to the best of their abilities yet unable to prevent the murder of another policeman. At the same time someone is targeting men with beards, slicing their throats and shaving them. While the victims in both cases have nothing in common, most in Scotland Yard are unable to believe that there are two individuals out and about killing people for their own, disturbed reasons. It seems that London and Scotland Yard will have to come to terms with a new sort of crime as well as new methods of investigation if they want to have a chance of staying ahead of the criminals.
The description above only covers part of the story featured in The Yard and only some of its host of interesting characters. With this book being the first in a new series, the reader is introduced to what I assume will be the returning characters and their lives. While I enjoyed finding out more about the various players and their motivation I did feel that all the background information, while enlightening, did at times take the pace out of the story. But, I see why the author would take the time to share those details and as far as “complaints” about this book go, this would be my only and minor one.
This is not a mystery in the strictest sense of the word since the reader is aware of who is committing the murders and why long before those investigating them even come close to finding out. You can’t call this a police procedural either since Scotland Yard was so newly formed that there were as yet n0 procedures for the investigators to follow. Walter Day and Dr. Bernard Kingsley are making their procedures and investigative methods up as they go along. Occasionally running into opposition, disbelief and scepticism they represent the start of the modern age of crime investigation. They take and compare fingerprints although they are not recognised as unique yet and inadmissible in court, Kingsley sees the need to collect and keep evidence rather than disregard it and proceeds to do so, just as he modernizes and humanizes the conditions under with autopsies are performed.
The Victorian setting in this book is almost a character in its own right. The descriptions of London, the over-crowded conditions and the total disregard for little children and those falling between the cracks of life are shocking to the modern mind.
What I really liked is that it wasn’t just the investigators who lacked sophistication in this story. The murderer is, to the modern reader of thrillers, just as amateurish as the police. It seems, and makes complete sense, that as the police investigations got more advanced, so did the criminals, trying to stay ahead of those who would stop them. A fascinating but completely logical idea.
I really enjoyed this book. Reading about the start of the now so famous Scotland Yard was fascinating and the characters introduced in this story are all multifaceted and easy to be interested in. I’m looking forward to finding out where Alex Grecian will be taking these people next and to learn more about the evolution of crime investigation.