Title: The Murder Squad Books One and Two: The Yard; The Black Country
Author: Alex Grecian
Genre: Historical Mystery
Length: 422 pages;
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: Scotland Yard — The Yard — has a set of detectives that focus solely on important crimes, like murder. Set in Victorian London, just after the Ripper murders, the Murder Squad is trying to keep London safe and prove that their work is worth while. Walter Day is the newest hire and is assigned the unenviable task of investigating the murder of one of their own.
In The Black Country, Day is sent to a coal mining town as the local police has called for his assistance. The change in location doesn’t mean that murder is possible, in fact, in this tiny town, there are many with cause.
Banter Points: I decided to review the two novels together as what I felt like saying really applied to both. The stories are partly about the development of the Scotland Yard, but are mainly about the period and the challenges of investigating crime before the CIA-esque technology-filled murder mysteries of today.
The first book introduces the idea of “finger marks” to track who has or has not touched an object. The idea is thought to be helpful, but not valid to stand up in the courts. Also, there is a well-meaning doctor performing autopsies in order to assist the detectives. It’s a gruesome start to the forensic evidence that we has readers (and a society) have come to depend on. It’s interesting too how Grecian keeps the point of view from being too modern. There is a female character who’s liberties are probably a bit too much, however, it didn’t detract from the overall story-telling.
Bummer Points: The focus isn’t so much on who did it, or even why, as Grecian uses third person point of view to tell the story. Fairly early on, the villain’s point of view is added to the story telling, and the two plots intertwine and the detectives piece together who the villain is. It doesn’t leave much for surprises or plot twists, and shifts the focus of the plot from the action to the people and the location. I love stories with strong characters, so normally I’d eat up a character driven plot. This one doesn’t hit the mark for me. The characters are interesting, but not exceptionally rememberable. I enjoyed the tale, the story, but am not yearning for more.
Stacie’s Recommendation: It is a solid, but not necessarily earth shattering read.