The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series #1)

The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series #1)

4.1 144
by Alex Grecian

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1889, LONDON.

Victorian London—a violent cesspool of squalid depravity. Only twelve detectives—The Murder Squad—are expected to solve the thousands of crimes committed here each month. Formed after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure in

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1889, LONDON.

Victorian London—a violent cesspool of squalid depravity. Only twelve detectives—The Murder Squad—are expected to solve the thousands of crimes committed here each month. Formed after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure in capturing Jack the Ripper, the Murder Squad suffers the brunt of public contempt. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…

A Scotland Yard Inspector has been found stuffed in a black steamer trunk at Euston Square Station, his eyes and mouth sewn shut. When Walter Day, the squad’s new hire, is assigned to the case, he finds a strange ally in Dr. Bernard Kingsley, the Yard’s first forensic pathologist. Their grim conclusion: this was not just a random, bizarre murder but in all probability, the first of twelve. Because the squad itself it being targeted and the devious killer shows no signs of stopping before completing his grim duty. But Inspector Day has one more surprise, something even more shocking than the crimes: the killer’s motive.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Grecian has a talent for capturing gory details…extremely vivid (and strangely moving)…Bounding from the workhouse to the lunatic asylum to the stinking streets, [Grecian] does outstanding descriptive work on the mad and the maimed, the diseased and the demented. If Charles Dickens isn’t somewhere clapping his hands for this one, Wilkie Collins surely is.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Jack The Ripper has disappeared into the mist of Victorian London. But Scotland Yard—shamed and embarrassed over its failure to catch the taunting madman—must carry on…an absorbing launch pad for a new series built around the detectives who are finding their way in the new business of criminology. Fingerprinting, saving evidence, comparing notes from different crimes to see if there's a pattern, even something as simple as working in pairs are all novel, untested ideas tried out for the first time…[a] mix of historical facts and vivid fictional creations. It's great fun…Grecian's debut is the promising start of a new series and should be one of the most acclaimed and popular mysteries of the year.”—Huffington Post

“Alex Grecian's exuberantly grisly serial killer tale set in 1889 London picks up where the Ripper left off.”—The Guardian (UK)

“One can almost taste the grit of the city, smell the soot of the chimneys, and hear the clopping of horses’ hooves as the hansoms rumble down cobbled streets. Alex Grecian builds his readers a world in Victorian London and populates it with good guys you’ll want to root for and bad guys you’ll want stopped at any cost. The Yard spans about three days, just the amount of time you’ll need to race through this intriguing debut novel.”—

“Lusciously rich with detail, atmosphere, and history, and yet as fast paced as a locomotive, The Yard will keep you riveted from page one. It’s truly a one—or two—sitting read.”—Jeffery Deaver, author of Carte Blanche and The Bone Collector

“A brilliantly crafted debut novel with unforgettable characters. An utterly gripping tale perfectly evokes Victorian London and brings you right back to the depraved and traumatic days of Jack the Ripper.”—Lisa Lutz, author of The Spellman Files

“Grecian successfully re-creates the dark atmosphere of late Victorian London.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A winner, filled with Victorian arcane and eccentric characters and more humor than one expects from such a work.” —The Rap Sheet

“Grecian powerfully evokes both the physical, smog-ridden atmosphere of London in 1889 and its emotional analogs of anxiety and depression. His infusion of actual history adds to this thriller’s credibility and punch. A deeply satisfying reconstruction of post-Ripper London.” —Booklist

“This excellent murder mystery debut introduces a fascinating cast of characters. Grecian displays a flair for language as well as creating vivid (and occasionally gruesome) depictions of places and events.”—Library Journal

“All the gruesome sights, sounds, and smells of a depraved Victorian London are vividly depicted…not for the squeamish. The characterization is particularly adept, and there’s even the occasional thought-provoking comment on industrialization and metropolitan Victorian society…Add to it all a few genuinely funny moments courtesy of absurdity and human nature, and you have The Yard: a gripping police procedural mystery and cracking good read. Recommended.”—

“I enjoyed every minute of The Yard. If you like gritty crime stories with a psychological thriller edge then you’re in for a treat.”—Popcorn Reads

Marilyn Stasio
…deliciously trashy…Grecian has a talent for capturing gory details…Bounding from the workhouse to the lunatic asylum to the stinking streets, he does outstanding descriptive work on the mad and the maimed, the diseased and the demented…If Charles Dickens isn't somewhere clapping his hands for this one, Wilkie Collins surely is.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
To hunt for anachronisms in historical fiction is a churlish hobby, but there’s a telling one in Alex Grecian’s affable first novel, a Victorian thriller. A detective describing his sense of responsibility to the families of murder victims employs a 1990s buzzword that it’s exceedingly unlikely would have entered the mind, much less the mouth, of a man in 1889: “closure.” The Yard has a great many virtues, including a Dickensian profusion of memorable minor characters, but this misstep lays bare its most serious flaw. Its heroes get shallower, not deeper, until by the book’s conclusion they seem like moralizing contemporary stick figures, freed from the complexity of their time. What feels like a third of the novel is devoted to their good deeds and subsequent mutual congratulation. In this mist of bonhomous closure, the suspense of a thriller fades. At the start, police in Euston Station discover a trunk stuffed with the corpse of a Scotland Yard inspector. In the course of a few mostly sleepless days, three men—Walter Day, a newly promoted member of the Yard’s “Murder Squad”; Nevil Hammersmith, a shrewd street officer; and Bernard Kingsley, an eccentric physician with an interest in the emerging science of forensics—circle a net around the murderer. The Yard also pays welcome stylistic homage to the rambling Victorian triple-decker, with plots and characters spiraling out in every direction from its initial crime scene. Among others there are a pair of prostitutes haunted by memories of Jack the Ripper, a new police commissioner, an amiably violent thief named Blackleg—and, in absorbing occasional glimpses, the murderer, a madman trying to recreate his lost family. It’s this sense of madness that is the book’s greatest strength. Grecian places the action of his story directly in the shadow of the Ripper murders, and sketches, intriguingly, how those crimes have forced the police to accept that murder can have darkly psychological motives. Grecian has a fine, flexible, curious voice, and The Yard looks as if it could be the start of a promising series; indeed, the enterprising Blackleg on his own could profitably drive a sequel, and the rise of forensics is a fascinating subject. And then, Grecian’s error is a common one. Even great authors working in the genre, such as David Mitchell and Patrick O’Brian, have given their characters an unrealistically modern broadness of mind. After all, the past is a brutish place, and what a real Walter Day would have believed in his heart—about sex, class, race—would likely alienate us immediately. The solution most writers have found, alas, is perhaps the most serious deficiency historical fiction has: a palliating dishonesty about what went on in the heads of people in other times. To his credit, Grecian lends great realism to his secondary characters; he may just be too fond of his primary ones to permit them their true context. Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Company. (June) Charles Finch is the author of A Death in the Small Hours, which Minotaur will publish in November.
Library Journal
After its failure to capture Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard creates the Murder Squad. When one of the squad members is killed, the newly hired Walter Day teams with the Yard's first forensic pathologist to track down the killer. A new series but not a neophyte author; Grecian is responsible for long-running graphic novel series Proof. I'm intrigued.
Kirkus Reviews
It's 1889, the year after Jack the Ripper terrorized the East End, but London is still awash with murders--96 bodies have been retrieved from the Thames in one month, most with their throats slit--and the detectives of Scotland Yard demonstrate their usual mixture of savvy and incompetence. The first victim the Yard has to contend with is Christian Little, whose mutilated body is found inside a trunk at Euston Square Station, a murder not just horrifying, but also embarrassing because Little is a detective inspector at Scotland Yard. Put in charge of the case is Walter Day, recently brought in from Devon and hence innocent of the previous year's failures. In fact, the Yard's new Murder Squad, an elite group of detectives of which Little had been a member, had been assembled in response to the failure of the Metropolitan Police to catch "Saucy Jack." Assisting Day is Dr. Bernard Kingsley, a surgeon at University College Hospital and incipient forensic pathologist. Heading the Murder Squad is Col. Sir Edward Bradford, a gruff no-nonsense administrator with good instincts about the competence of police officers. Grecian creates a large and eccentric cast of characters, including a detective inspector who can't stop making jokes (usually bad puns), a mentally disturbed dancing man, a brutal tailor (whose telltale shears are used in untoward ways), the seductive wife of a doctor, and two coldblooded prostitutes, now perpetrators of crime rather than victims. But the murderer keeps making fools of the Murder Squad by bumping off more detectives. Although the whodunit aspect of the novel is a bit weak, Grecian successfully re-creates the dark atmosphere of late Victorian London.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt


LONDON, 1889.

Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found. A black steamer trunk appeared at Euston Square Station some

time during the night and remained unnoticed until early afternoon of the following day. The porter discovered it after the one o’clock train had departed, and he opened the trunk when it proved too heavy for him to lift.

He immediately sent a boy to find the police.

Detective Inspector Walter Day was first at the scene, and he directed the many bobbies who arrived after him. He had come to London only the week before. This was his first crime scene and he was clearly nervous, but the blue-uniformed bobbies knew their job well and did not require much from him. They pushed back the commuters who had gathered round the trunk and began to scour the station for possible weapons and other clues.

An hour later, Dr Bernard Kingsley entered the station all in a rush and headed for the knot of people gathered on the gallery of the booking office. The trunk had been left against the railing overlooking the platform. Kingsley brushed past Inspector Day and knelt on the floor.

He opened his satchel and drew out a cloth tape measure, snaked it between his fingers, moving it up and across. The trunk was a standard size, two by three by three, glossy black with tin rivets along the seams. He closed the lid and brushed a finger across the top. It was clean; no dust.

With his magnifying glass in hand, he scuttled around the trunk, scru

tinizing the corners for wear. He licked his finger and rubbed a seam along one side where black paint had been applied to cover a crack. He was aware of Day hovering over his shoulder and, less intrusive, the bobbies at the sta

tion’s entrance pushing back fresh onlookers who had arrived from the street outside. The lower classes were always out for a spectacle, while the better-off walked briskly past, ignoring the to-do.

His preliminary examination out of the way, Kingsley opened and shut the trunk’s lid several times, listening to the hinges, then eased it back until the edge of the lid rested against the floor. He peered into the trunk for a long moment, ignoring the sickly sweet odor of death. The body inside was folded in on itself, knotted and mashed into the too-small space like so much laundry. One shoe was missing, and Kingsley presumed it was some

where at the bottom of the trunk, under the body. The man’s suit was gabardine, the hems lightly worn, dirt pressed into the creases. His arms and legs were broken and wrapped around one another.

Kingsley took a pair of tongs from his satchel and used them to move an arm out of the way so he could see the man’s face. The skin was pearl grey and the eyes and mouth were sewn shut with heavy thread, the pattern of parallel stitches like train tracks across the man’s lips. Kingsley looked up at Day. When he spoke, his voice was low and measured.

“Have you identified him yet?”

Day shook his head no.

“It’s one of you,” Kingsley said.

“One of me?”

“The body is that of a detective. This is Inspector Little.”

Day backed away to the railing and held up his hands, warding off the unpleasant thought.

“It can’t be. I spoke with Little just last evening.”

Kingsley shrugged.

“It’s not that I doubt you,” Day said. “But Inspector Little . . .”

“Come and see for yourself,” Kingsley said.

Day stared at him.

“I said come here. Please.”

“Of course.”

Day approached the trunk and swallowed hard before looking down.

“Breathe through your mouth, Mr Day. The odor isn’t pleasant.”

Day nodded, panting heavily.

“I suppose it is Mr Little. But what have they done to him?”

“You can see what’s been done. The question is why has it been done?”

“It’s inhuman.”

“I’m afraid it’s all too human.”

“Cut those off him. Get that off his face. We can’t have a detective of the Yard trussed up like a . . . like a Christmas goose, for God’s sake.”

One of the uniformed constables standing at the rail looked up. The station was full of citizens who didn’t care about the dead detective in the trunk just so long as they got a chance to see him. Day recognized the ter

ror in the constable’s eyes and could see that he had no idea why he was doing this dangerous job for little money and no respect. In that single mo

ment, in the expression he saw in the other man’s eyes, Day understood that London needed her police, but did not care about them. And he saw, too, that this newfound discovery was something that every policeman on that platform already understood.

The morale of the Metropolitan Police Force had reached its lowest point during the Ripper murders of the previous year and had not yet re

covered. The files of the Whitechapel murders had not been closed as the case was still ongoing, but nobody in London trusted the police to do their job. Jack had escaped and the detectives of the Yard had never even come close to finding him. The unsolved case was a harsh reminder of their fal

libility, and it hung over their heads every morning when they walked through the door of the back hall. The Ripper was still out there some

where, and it was likely he’d remain out there.

Kingsley stood and put a hand on Day’s shoulder. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible.

“I will most assuredly make Inspector Little presentable again. There will be a time and a place to mourn him. Here and now, you must fix your mind on justice. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Little’s killer is watching us, and your demeanor may set the course for the investigation to come. You must appear to be strong and rational.”

Day nodded.

“To work, then,” Kingsley said.

He grabbed a handle and lifted one end of the trunk, grunted, and set it back down.

“Inspector Day,” he said, “you look like an able fellow. Lift this end, would you?”

“Where shall I put it?”

“Not the entirety of the trunk, just pull upward on the handle and get this thing off the ground a bit, would you?”

Kingsley removed his hat and set it on a bench along the far wall of the gallery. He draped his coat over the arm of the bench and strode back to where Day had an end of the trunk lifted off the ground. The two men were a study in contrasts. Dr Kingsley was short and thin with sharply chiseled features and wild, prematurely grey hair that matched his eyes. Inspector Day was tall and built like an ox through the chest and shoulders. His short dark hair was combed back from his wide forehead, and his expression was permanently helpful, as if he were in search of an old lady he might escort across the street. He displayed the easy physical confidence that some big men had, but his features were fine and sensitive and his eyes were sad. Kingsley found it impossible to dislike the young detective.

“Higher, would you?” Kingsley said. “That’s better.”

He got down on his hands and knees and crawled under the end of the trunk, Day straining above him. It didn’t occur to him that Day might drop the trunk on his head. Men like Day used their brains to move their mus

cles about. Their muscles were useful enough.

Kingsley inspected the planks of the platform floor, peering into crevices in the ancient wood, worn smooth by the shoes of countless travelers.

“Aha!” he said. He scrambled backward until his head was clear of the bottom of the trunk and stood up, using one hand to smooth his waistcoat over his stomach. The thumb and index finger of his other hand were pinched together, and he held them up to the light.

Day squinted.

“It’s a hair,” he said.

“No, lad. It’s a thread. This end is frayed a bit where it’s been cut. Here, you see?”

“The same thread used to sew his mouth and eyes?”

“Different color. That was black. This is dark blue. It could be a coinci

dence, someone lost a thread from her coat, perhaps, but I don’t think so. I think your killer came prepared with at least two colors of thread. And why would that be?”

He abruptly dropped to the ground and began to crawl around the plat

form, his magnifying glass playing over the surface, his long fingers poking into the corners where the wall joined the planks of the floor. After several long minutes in which the onlookers behind the railing began to grow rest

less, Kingsley murmured an exclamation and held his finger up to the light. A drop of blood formed on his fingertip, and Kingsley smiled. He sucked the blood from his finger and turned his magnifying glass around, using the blunt handle to scrape dirt away from the wall.

He stood and trotted back to where Day was still holding up an end of the trunk. Kingsley held out his hand, displaying his find for Day to see.

“Needles,” Day said.

Kingsley grinned. “Three needles, Inspector Day. Three, where one might do. I’d say our killer’s made a telling mistake. Give me your hand


“Is it in my breast pocket?”

“I don’t see one there.”

“I may have come out without it today.”

Kingsley nodded and turned to the nearest constable.

“You there, have you a handkerchief ?”

A tall, lanky constable looked up from the side of the platform where he seemed to be scanning the crowd. His eyes were bright and intelligent and nearly hidden behind long feminine lashes. He jumped slightly at the sound of Kingsley’s voice.

“What’s your name?” Kingsley said.

“Hammersmith, sir.”

“You sound Welsh, sir.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re watching the crowd?”

“What the detective said, about it being another detective in the box, it surprised people.”

“You were looking to see who among that crowd wasn’t surprised. Who might have already known there was a detective in the trunk.”

“Yes, sir.”


“I didn’t see anything unexpected.”

Kingsley nodded. “Still,” he said, “it was a worthy idea. How long have you been with the force?”

“Two years, sir.”

“I’m surprised I haven’t made your acquaintance before this. I shall watch your career with interest. Now, I wonder if I might borrow your handkerchief?”

“Of course, sir.”

“Thank you, Mr Hammersmith.”

Kingsley took the offered kerchief and glanced at it. He looked up at the constable.

“This is not particularly clean.”

“I apologize, sir. I’ve been at it now for two shifts and haven’t had a chance to launder anything.”

Indeed, Hammersmith looked sloppy. His blue uniform was wrinkled, his shirt was untucked on one side, and the cuffs of his trousers were muddy. There was a hangdog air about him, but in his body language and bearing he somehow gave the impression of utter competence.

“Yes, well, thank you, Hammersmith. I shall return this as soon as I possibly can.”

“Of course, sir.”

Kingsley wrapped the needles in the soiled square of cloth. He tucked the handkerchief and the short piece of blue thread into his vest pocket to be examined later.

“This one is a challenge. A real challenge.”

Kingsley smiled and scanned the platform one last time, barely taking in the crowd of onlookers.

“Wonderful,” he said. “Simply wonderful. You can let that down now.”

Day eased the end of the heavy trunk back to the platform floor and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Have two of the men bring that round to the college,” Kingsley said. “I’ll want to examine Little’s body, but I’m not going to do it here. Have the rest of these bobbies search the platform carefully for a man’s left shoe. I suspect it’s in the trunk, but there’s no harm in putting them to work.”

Kingsley shrugged back into his coat, picked up his hat, and walked away. Halfway to the far edge of the platform, he turned and walked back to where Day still stood. He leaned in and whispered so the onlookers wouldn’t overhear. “Shut the lid on that trunk,” he said. “We don’t want that rabble ogling a dead detective.”

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What People are saying about this

Lisa Lutz
Alex Grecian's The Yard is a brilliantly crafted debut novel with unforgettable characters. An utterly gripping tale perfectly evokes Victorian London and brings you right back to the depraved and traumatic days of Jack the Ripper. And I mean that in the best possible way. (Lisa Lutz, author of The Spellman Files)
From the Publisher

“This excellent murder mystery debut introduces a fascinating cast of characters. Grecian displays a flair for language as well as creating vivid (and occasionally gruesome) depictions of places and events.” – Library Journal
Jeffery Deaver
Lusciously rich with detail, atmosphere and history, and yet as fast paced as a locomotive, The Yard will keep you riveted from page one. It's truly a one- or two-sitting read. (Jeffery Deaver, author of Carte Blanche and The Bone Collector)

Meet the Author

Alex Grecian is the author of the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and son, The Yard is his first novel.

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