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"A compulsively readable story that starts as a conventional murder mystery and morphs, by degrees, into a horrifying supernatural thriller," The Guardian said of Mayhem.

A virtuoso fantasy writer, Sarah Pinborough has won numerous awards including the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. In Mayhem Pinborough turns her attention to one of the most baffling and notorious crime sprees in Victorian times.

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"A compulsively readable story that starts as a conventional murder mystery and morphs, by degrees, into a horrifying supernatural thriller," The Guardian said of Mayhem.

A virtuoso fantasy writer, Sarah Pinborough has won numerous awards including the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. In Mayhem Pinborough turns her attention to one of the most baffling and notorious crime sprees in Victorian times.

Already frustrated in their attempts to capture serial murderer Jack the Ripper, the detectives of Scotland Yard are suddenly confronted with a new monster, dubbed the Torso Killer for his habit of leaving behind neatly wrapped parcels of his victims' body parts, minus the heads. With the terrible increase in mutilated corpses to examine, the highly regarded police surgeon Dr. Thomas Bond has lost the ability to sleep. True, a growing dependency on opium affords him some solace in his loneliest and most desperate hours, but he also fears the grip of the drug.

During Dr. Bond's nightly tours of London's underbelly in search of pharmaceutical respite from the horrors that plague him by day, he encounters a mysterious Jesuit priest scouring the opium dens himself, clearly in search of someone--or something. The doctor at first rejects the strange priest's unnatural theories about the Torso Killer as an affront to scientific thought. But over time Dr. Bond's opium-addled mind begins to crumble under the growing impression that there might be some awful truth to the Jesuit's ideas.

As the police struggle to capture two serial killers, the troubled forensics expert begins to suspect that he may actually know the Torso Killer personally. If he is right, Dr. Bond will need all the strength he can muster to save his small circle of loved ones from falling victim to the bloody depravities of this twisted creature.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

London nights are more frightful thanks to Jack the Ripper, but a new serial killer runs loose in the East End. Unlike the Ripper, this slayer is no artist of homicide; he simply picks his female victims, murders them, then butchers and decapitates them and discards their headless carcasses into the Thames. Sarah Pinborough's Victorian crime thriller possesses supernatural elements that only add to the suspense. (P.S.: The author is one to watch: She has won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and Best Novella, and been shortlisted for Best Novel, not to mention World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards.)

Publishers Weekly
★ 11/11/2013
Rather than offer the umpteenth fictional take on Jack the Ripper, Pinborough (The Hidden) cleverly uses the so-called Thames Torso murders, a lesser-known series of crimes in late-1880s London, as the starting point for this terrifying novel. Most of the tale is told from the perspective of Dr. Thomas Bond, a historical figure who assisted the police with both sets of killings. Bond responds to the carnage he sees by ever-more-frequent visits to an opium den. His search for the man leaving parts of women strewn around the city, including in the basement of the new location for Scotland Yard, leads him to team with some unusual allies—and to a truth about the crimes and their connection to a Polish legend that he finds almost impossible to believe. In this chilling exploration of madness and evil, Pinborough excels at summoning up the bleak spirit of Victorian London’s mean streets and those forced to fight for survival there. Agent: Veronique Baxter, David Higham Associates (U.K.). (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Mayhem is a terrific piece of sustained writing, taking the tired streets of fictional Victorian London and reinvigorating them through the introduction of an ancient enemy. It's well worth reading whether as historical true crime fiction or as a supernatural thriller."—David Marshall, Thinking About Books

From the Hardcover edition.

"Mayhem is a disturbingly engrossing Victorian horror with a standout, menacing villain. Never have I known a smile to be so sinister and rancid, but Pinborough's prose prove the gesture to be something terrifyingly palpable. This genre-defying novel is a ravenous read and will have you as insatiable as the malicious mischief-maker that awaits you in its pages."—BookPage

"Masterfully... Mayhem is a beautifully rendered exploration of madness in all its forms. The author takes sleight of hand to new heights. She makes the mean streets of Victorian London all too real. It's a demanding, moody horror story with a shocking twist."—Irma Heldman, Open Letters Monthly

Praise for Sarah Pinborough

"In this chilling exploration of madness and evil, Pinborough excels at summoning up the bleak spirit of Victorian London's mean streets and those forced to fight for survival there."—Publishers Weekly (starred)

"If you enjoy a true crime-novel combo, don't pass on the newest work from British-born author Sarah Pinborough, who takes a cue from Dean Koontz in composing a new supernatural-whodunit-polyphonic thriller for those not of the faint of heart."—John Henry, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

"Few writers blend mystery and the supernatural as well as Sarah Pinborough, but there are none who do it better. Quite, quite brilliant."—John Connolly

Praise for Mayhem

"Sarah Pinborough deftly trawls through the muck of Victorian London in Mayhem, a graphic tale about a series of murders contemporaneous to Jack the Ripper's crimes... English horror and fantasy writer Sarah Pinborough breaks new ground in "Mayhem," her 12th novel, by exploring several murders that occurred contemporaneously with the Ripper crimes... Although the news stories and a letter signed by Jack the Ripper, interspersed throughout the novel, lend authenticity to and place the murders in context, Mayhem's greater achievement is in its deft portrayal of the divergent social classes in Victorian London that gave rise to the Thames Torso Killer and the men who hunted him."—Paula L. Woods, The Los Angeles Times

"a taut late Victorian crime thriller with a stunning Eastern European spin. The inclusion of world-wide nespaper coverage of the first known serial killers adds fascinating macabre shock and depth; mindful of the Son of Sam coverage. Readers will relish this tense twisting historical whodunit."—Harriet Klausner, Midwest Book Review

"She rides the line between gritty realism and otherworldly weirdness without ever toppling over."—SFX

"Pinborough's fiction moves at a breakneck pace. Once you start, you can't stop."—Sarah Langan

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781623650865
  • Publisher: Quercus
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 559,316
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and young adult author. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. Her novel The Hidden is currently in development as the movie Cracked, and she has another original screenplay under option. She has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has a three-part TV series in development with World Productions. She was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has been short-listed three times for Best Novel. Her novella The Language of Dying was short-listed for the Shirley Jackson Award, and won the 2010 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1.  Does Dr. Bond’s opium habit end up being an asset or a liability in his mission to find the Thames Torso Killer?
2.  The real-life Aaron Kosminski was (and remains) a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders. Does Sarah Pinborough’s depiction of him make him seem like a potential murderer?
3. Discuss why the chapters focusing on Dr. Bond are written in the first person, while the chapters focusing on other characters are written in the third person.
4. What are some of the techniques Sarah Pinborough uses to evoke a sense of place in 19th-century London in MAYHEM?
5. What genre would you place MAYHEM in? Is it supernatural horror? Police procedural? Both?
6.  At what point in the story does it become clear who (or what) is responsible for the murders? Do you prefer to know “whodunit” before the end of a suspense novel, or do you prefer a twist in the final pages?
7.  Discuss the priest. Why does Pinborough never reveal his name? And why, unlike the other main characters, are there no chapters that focus on him?
8.  Discuss the tension between science and the supernatural in MAYHEM. Dr. Bond is a man of reason, but he is suddenly forced to confront the existence of things that can’t be explained by science. How does he react to this overwhelming situation?
9.  At the end of Chapter 18, Dr. Bond prepares a briefing outlining his theories about the Torso Killer and his methods. After finishing the book, look at it again and evaluate its accuracy.
10.  To what degree do you feel sympathy for James Harrington by the end of the novel?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    In the late 1800s, while the terrifying and mysterious Jack the

    In the late 1800s, while the terrifying and mysterious Jack the Ripper is plaguing Whitechapel another killer is on the loose, ‘The Torso Killer’. Scotland Yard detectives are swamped with bodies and call in Dr. Thomas Bond, the police surgeon who wrote the first criminal profile. Dr. Bond has issues with insomnia and turns to opium for relief, even though he worries about his dependence on the drug. One night in his favorite opium den Dr. Bond notices a priest watching those in the throes of the chasing the dragon. Following his instincts, he discovers the priest’s secret mission to find the truth behind the Torso Killer.

    Mixing elements of history and dark fantasy, MAYHEM is a detailed police procedural set in the Victorian Era. I think some of the subtlety of the plot is lost in the overly detailed descriptions, even though the detail paints everything in a spotlight while still hiding it all in shadow. I enjoyed the flawed genius of Dr. Bond, an opium addict with an insatiable curiosity. While MAYHEM starts off slow, when the action picks up readers will be fascinated to follow Dr. Bond and the priest down the rabbit hole.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2014

    Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough¿4.5 stars As Jack the Ripper roams

    Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough—4.5 stars

    As Jack the Ripper roams the streets of Whitechapel, another, even more depraved serial killer seeks his victims. The police are frustrated and baffled as more and more women’s torsos turn up, with the rest of their remains—except for their heads—often found in the Thames. This leads to the murderer’s moniker: the Thames River Killer. Dr. Thomas Bond examines the victims in an effort to discover something that will shed light on the perpetrator. Insomnia claims him to a greater extent as the months pass without answers, but the worst is yet to come. When rumors of a possible supernatural connection filter in and challenge his rational nature, insanity threatens as the menace draws near to his personal life.

    Sarah Pinborough’s “Mayhem” is a chilling and engrossing horror novel set in 1880s Victorian London. During Jack the Ripper’s infamous killing spree, another, perhaps lesser-known, murderer was stalking the area and claiming similar victims. Referred to as the Thames Torso Murders, these homicides likewise went unsolved and were in fact more hideous in their execution than even those of the Ripper. Pinborough uses this bit of history as the premise of her novel, creating an unsettling backstory for this macabre murder mystery. She draws upon historical figures to craft her tale, including Police Surgeon Dr. Thomas Bond and Ripper suspect Aaron Kosminski. The shifting viewpoint of the narrative adds to the disconcerting effect of the story itself by exploring several characters throughout the novel, all of which are related in the third person except for the accounts of Dr. Bond, which implement first-person narration. The book is similar in nature to the Order of the Sanguines series written by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, with a mature adult target audience. There is a certain degree of gory description, but it is not overwhelming and is handled well, relying more on psychological suspense than on a shock factor. Reproductions of authentic newspaper articles concerning the killings appear interspersed between the chapters and enhance the historical feel of the novel. Readers who enjoy atmospheric suspense and mystery with a supernatural element and a Victorian London setting will want to add “Mayhem” to their reading list.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Great Thriller Based Around Jack the Ripper

    We are taken to the time of Jack the Ripper, but this story is not about him. This is about the Thames Torso murders, a series of murders that happened around the same time but with enough variation that the police figured they were a separate killer. Thomas Bond is a police surgeon that is part of the discovery of the first torso in the New Scotland Yard vault.

    Thomas, Aaron Kominski, a suspect in the real Jack the Ripper murders, and a priest are paired up to find the killer, but this is not just a plain serial killer, there is a paranormal twist that helps add to the thriller aspect. Thomas is insistent about using science to explain the murders but the priest has a thrilling paranormal creature that he thinks is the reason for the deaths.

    I saw the synopsis of this story was based with the Jack the Ripper murders so I thought this would be great. Little did I know, I was up for one heck of a ride with a completely different killer. I loved Thomas. He was so realistic and kid of reminded me of Johnny Depps character in From Hell.

    I loved how realistic the setting was. You can tell a lot of research went into this story. I loved the newspaper clips, they really added to the feel of the book. Although the story bounced around between people and different perspectives, I had no trouble following it.

    I really loved this book. If you like mysteries/thrillers you will want to check out this book. Now I’m going to read Pinborough’s other books to see what else I have been missing.

    I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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