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The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series #2)

The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series #2)

3.9 32
by Alex Grecian

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The New York Times Book Review said of The Yard, “If Charles Dickens isn’t somewhere clapping his hands…Wilkie Collins surely is.” Now Alex Grecian returns with his new novel of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad—and it’s a gripper.

The British Midlands. Inhabitants call it the “Black Country”—and


The New York Times Book Review said of The Yard, “If Charles Dickens isn’t somewhere clapping his hands…Wilkie Collins surely is.” Now Alex Grecian returns with his new novel of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad—and it’s a gripper.

The British Midlands. Inhabitants call it the “Black Country”—and with good reason. Bad things happen there.

When three members of a prominent family disappear from the Midlands—and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest—Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad is called in. But Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith have stepped into something much more bizarre and complicated than expected.

Superstitions abound in the intertwined histories of the villagers, including a local legend about a monster some claim to have seen. In addition, a mysterious epidemic is killing off the inhabitants, and the village itself is sinking into the coal mines below. Day and Hammersmith soon realize that they, too, are in over their heads. And the more they investigate, the more they fear that they may never be allowed to leave.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in 1890, Grecian’s startling and spooky sequel to The Yard (2012) charts the efforts of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to locate a missing married couple and their toddler in Britain’s industrial Midlands. In the village of Blackhampton, Insp. Walter Day and his team discover more than one mystery: a girl finds an eyeball under a tree, scores of townspeople are stricken with an unexplained plague, and a hideous figure is lurking in the woods with a gun. Battling local terror and superstition, the squad must also contend with the town’s physical collapse into the mines beneath it. Grecian’s bold melding of horror with historical elements more than compensates for the dramatic overkill at the end. The novel’s varied relationships balance pathos with humor and point up lessons on human responsibility—on what we owe to those with whom we’re connected. The nascent bond between Day and Sgt. Nevil Hammersmith is especially appealing, hinting at many rich developments to come. Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Company. (May)
Library Journal
The Murder Squad is back on the case! When a small boy and his parents go missing, Insp. Walter Day and Sgt. Nevil Hammersmith trade the fog of London for the coal mines of the British Midlands.The duo arrive in the tiny village of Blackhampton, weighted down under a thick layer of snow, secrets, and superstition. Soon, the case that was supposed to be open-and-shut has developed more twists and turns than the labyrinthine mining tunnels underlying the village. As a deadly stranger watches, more villagers disappear and Hammersmith develops a mysterious illness.

Verdict Grecian’s (The Yard) latest Murder Squad adventure is a fast-paced homage to the Victorian countryside mysteries of Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone; The Woman in White) and Charles Dickens (Bleak House; The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Recommended for Anglophiles, period mystery enthusiasts, and anyone interested

Kirkus Reviews
Scotland Yard inspector Walter Day, first introduced in Grecian's The Yard (2012), returns to help solve a murder or two in the Black Country of the Midlands. The landscape is grimy, muddy and slag-strewn--in other words, a perfect climate for murder--but other mysterious goings-on also haunt the village of Blackhampton, especially a plaguelike illness affecting hundreds of townspeople. Day had originally been called in from London along with his assistant, Nevil Hammersmith, to investigate the disappearance of a couple, Sutton and Hester Price, and their young son, Oliver. The Prices leave three more children behind--Peter, Anna and Virginia--all of them precocious and creepy. It turns out one of the missing Prices and the community disease are related when Day discovers Oliver's body at the bottom of a well from which folks have been drawing their drinking water. Almost immediately after Day removes the body, Sutton returns, reclaiming the three remaining children. Throughout the elaboration of these mysteries, other puzzles emerge, like the appearance in Blackhampton of Campbell, a giant of a man whose cover is that he's a bird-watcher. We also meet, somewhat elliptically, a menacing figure called simply The American, whose face had been horribly mutilated by Campbell at Andersonville Prison in 1865; 25 years later, he's still seeking revenge. And Campbell, it turns out, had been enamored years earlier with Hester Price, so Sutton Price's sudden reappearance leads to fighting that emerges from jealousy. Grecian packs in almost more plot than a body can stand, but he presents with fine precision the gray and gritty atmosphere of late-Victorian England.
From the Publisher
Praise for THE YARD

“Outstanding. If Charles Dickens isn’t somewhere clapping his hands for this, Wilkie Collins surely is.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series , #2
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Praise for The Black Country

“Ripe with gory details…[Grecian] has a flair.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Similar to Jean Zimmerman’s atmospheric psychological novel The Orphanmaster, and as shocking as David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art.”Booklist (starred review)

“Devilishly dark…It isn’t often that a mystery-thriller enthralls so completely…but as usual with Mr. Grecian, there is more to this tale than complex plotting…A displaced eye, a crumpled note, cryptic limericks and lost ribbons: like our detective heroes, we follow these trails into the white-blinding snow to its brilliant and unexpected conclusion. Whether you read the tale in the dark night of winter or the haze of a summer sun, be prepared for the chill. The days are dark in Black Country.”The Huffington Post

“Grecian creates an eerie atmosphere from start to finish, and without giving anything away, the killer here is creepy and unexpected.”—Bookreporter.com

“Startling and spooky . . . [a] bold melding of horror with historical elements.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Grecian] presents with fine precision the gray and gritty atmosphere of late-Victorian England.”—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for The Yard

“Grecian has a talent for capturing gory details…extremely vivid (and strangely moving)…[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

“[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.”—The Huffington Post

“Exuberantly grisly.”—The Guardian (U.K.)

“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

“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

“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, New York Times bestselling author

“Grecian successfully recreates the dark atmosphere of late Victorian London.”—Kirkus Reviews

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

“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. a gripping police procedural mystery and cracking good read. Recommended.”—Historical Novel Society

Meet the Author

ALEX GRECIAN is the national bestselling author of The Yard and the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and son.

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Black Country 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
An interesting story set in 1890's England detailing the adventures of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad. This case is centered around the Black Country, the center of coal production in the Midlands of England far from the crowded streets of London. Inspector Walter Day and his squad have been asked to help find three missing & presumed dead members of a coal mining family. A small child has gone missing along with his father and step mother. Three other small children of the same family have been left to shift for themselves. In a late season blizzard that is blanketing the countryside, there are more mysteries to solve than just the missing family members. What is the strange sickness that has gripped over half of the villagers? Who is the mysterious stranger built like a brick wall and just as talkative? Why don't the villagers seem to be overly concerned with the families disappearance? I enjoyed the atmosphere and the plot. I was a little disappointed that some of the answers to the mysteries were telegraphed early in the story. The story would have been more entertaining if the suspense could have been maintained longer. Book provided for review by the well read folks at Library Thing and Putnam.
Hoku1111 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! The story line was filled with twists and turns, but was not confusing where the reader must turn back a few pages to re-read the past pages. The characters are all well developed such that the reader is able to relate to the internal thought process of each character. Moreover, the authors description of the places that the characters live and visit are rich and colorful. In turn, this allows the reader to enjoy the journey to the end of the book. I highly recommend this book.
bobsocean More than 1 year ago
Not sure why I stayed with this book to the end? Nothing like the cover implies. The two investigators from Scotland Yard were next to useless in solving the case. At the end it solved itself through confessions and pure luck. Too much of the story was about this coal mine town and the sinking homes, gray skies and constant snow storm. Silly conversations with children and detectives dominated the story. Why a flashback to the US Civil War was necessary, I'll never understand? Save your hard earned money people, and go buy something else.
CrazyForNewBooks More than 1 year ago
A fantastic follow-up to The Yard; a spellbinding story full of intrigue and interesting characters. A town full of people, many who seem to have their own agenda, is it to protect the missing family or to hamper the detectives in their investigation? Are the 3 remaining children from the missing family keeping a secret of their own, or are they trying to protect their missing family members? Will the town still be standing if and when the family is found? So many things going on but all carefully intertwined to produce a thrilling read.
PainFrame 22 days ago
Here now, what’s this then? This follow up to “The Yard” is entertaining enough, but it loses a little something by taking the casework out of London and into the countryside. I still found it to be of interest and I definitely felt for the poor sap detective who is under the weather in such a harsh environment. What I like about historical fiction is still present here, namely the things which don’t really have as much of an influence in the modern age; such as the lack of forensic science, superstitions which veil the truth and neat details like a city slowly sinking into the mines beneath it, or a villain who uses very cool, but highly conspicuous hexagonal bullets. A worthy follow up to the first one, which I loved. I look forward to the third which I hope will take us back to the captivating setting of nineteenth-century London. A good series so far, but start with the first one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story although good felt too wordy.
kilthosemk More than 1 year ago
Usually second books don't add up to the first. This book does. A great page turner you won't want to put down.
Ed_Ral More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the first book in this series. This one was a bit disjointed. The story line seemed a mishmash of several story lines and did not seem, to me, to resolve themselves to my satisfaction by the end of the story. However, I look forward to book #3 in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book although it wasn't as good a The Yard. Some gore but the language did not offend. I agree that the inclusion of the Civil War aspect was unnecessary to the story. I will buy the next book by this author.
moldyworm12 More than 1 year ago
Using collapsing coal mines as a backdrop for a series of murders Is a unique and interesting idea. I enjoyed the first novel in this collection and this second one was as good or better. Looking forward to number three.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You here
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
This is the second book about the beginnings of Scotland Yard's Detective Squad,  Inspector Day, Sergeant Hammersmith, and forensics Dr. Kingsley have been sent to a British Midland's mining town in 1890, to find a husband, his second wife and their young son.  The three young children of the missing man's first wife and somewhat reluctant to help in the investigation.  This mining town is slowly sinking into the numerous tunnels below it.  The town's folks are stepped in tradition, rumors and superstitions and are also in the middle of a sickness that has been contacted by a majority of the towns folks.  Atmosphere and superstition drive this mystery, along with an interesting connection to the happenings in the USA. The fate of the missing people is precariously connected to the fate of the town.  The Detectives need to hurry and solve their case before they are figuratively and literally drawn into this town forever. The history and atmosphere of this story was excellent, but I found it less enjoyable than the first book--THE YARD-- because so much of what happened was driven by natural happenings rather than detecting.  There was a sense of morbidity about this story that was very depressing.  The characters continued to evoke a sense of learning from their experiences though, and I have hopes that the mental detecting aspects of a The a Yard will return more fully in succeeding books.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be very tedious.  I almost didn't finish it but kept hoping that it would improve. It did not.  I am somewhat surprised that anyone gave it a 5 star rating but each to his own. I got the distinct feeling that the author didn't have the plot firmed up in his mind before writing and so made it up as he went along  and not very well at that.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fun fast read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SherlockRK More than 1 year ago
I picked up the first in this series, The Yard, off a table at B&N marked "Must Read for 2013." It was riveting from page one, and I immediately ordered the next in the series. It was such a quick, riveting read, in part because all of the character backgrounds have been established in the first installment. I have already pre-ordered the third in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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WriteReason More than 1 year ago
An interesting tale, but completely contrived from beginning to end.  Nothing like The Yard--found very little connection to the two tales, except for the names of a few characters.  Still a reasonably good read, but missed the expectations I had from reading The Yard.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I had More in this series to read... I absolutely love this series and these characters. A must read for anyone who loves amazing historical mysteries
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this writer as his books take you to new place and experience.