The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad Series #1)by Alex Grecian
JACK THE RIPPER’S REIGN OF TERROR IN FINALLY OVER, BUT A NEW ONE IS JUST BEGINNING.
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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JACK THE RIPPER’S REIGN OF TERROR IN FINALLY OVER, BUT A NEW ONE IS JUST BEGINNING.
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.
New York Times
“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.”—BookReporter.com
“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.”—HistoricalNovelSociety.org
“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
Read an Excerpt
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.”
“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.”
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?”
“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.”
“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.
“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.
“You sound Welsh, 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.”
“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.”
What People are Saying About This
“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
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Any notion of Victorian England as a place of sweetness and light will be quickly disspelled by Alex Grecian's new book, whose grim descriptions of 19th-century London are more Dickens than Austin. Most of the city is filthy. Life is cheap among the masses of the poor. Cutthroats mingle with pickpockets, prostitutes, and thieves. The dead are thrown into charnel houses. The indigent and mentally ill are warehoused under appalling conditions. And lower-class children have no rights or protection - they are used and abused, disappear daily, are tossed like trash when they've served their purpose. An understaffed police force struggles under a staggering case load - they can barely get to the routine crimes, much less solve the murders that constantly occur. And they are in disgrace with the public after no success in finding Jack the Ripper. Forensics at this time are primitive, to put it kindly. The author adroitly handles several plot lines: a new killer is targeting police officers; a child has been kidnapped and forced by his unstable new "father" to replace a lost son; full-bearded men have their throats slit and are found clean-shaven. The officers who will undoubtedly be the lead characters in subsequent books in the series are often flawed, but always sympathetic. One is a newlywed who sometimes longs for the clear air of his home in Devon. Another is a scrapper who fought to leave the mines where he worked as a child. A forward-thinking medical examiner adds interest, especially when he begins experimenting with an early form of fingerprinting. Surprisingly, in all this grubby reality are some unexpected flashes of humor. I actually found myself laughing out loud at the welcome comic relief. However, these moments are few and far between, and the reader is soon immersed once again in the scary, overcrowded London of the 1800s. I look forward to the next in this fine series.
I can't wait to read more novels by Alex Grecian!!! I could not put this book down. I truly loved the characters. The book had a bit of historical accuracy thrown in, specifically the advent of fingerprint comparison, and Henry Faulds. I am a Crime Scene Investigtor and Fingerprint examiner and enjoyed that Grecian chose to add these types of details into his novel. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone!!
When I review a book I don't go into all the details of plot summary. People can read the above overview to get those details. What I do like to do is give a few reasons as to why I liked or didn't like the book. Having said that, this was an absolute marvel of a debut novel. If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly those set in Victorian London, then you'll enjoy The Yard. (It's right up there with The Alienist by Caleb Carr; if you haven't read that one you should.) The historical details and aspects were spot on. Made me feel as if I were walking the foggy streets of Victorian London. The characters, both the protagonists and antagonists, were both intriguing and interesting. Also, I liked the fact that the reader knew who the killer(s) was pretty early on in the book, but you still didn't know how the police were going to apprehend the killer(s). That is where the reader is treated to a marvelous display of police procedures & detective work at its best. Why didn't I rate it 5 stars? I only reserve that rating for the absolute best, and this one fell just a little short of that rare rating. Buy it, read it and enjoy!
The Yard is Alex Grecian's debut novel. And this reader has put him firmly on her 'must read' list. London, England 1889 -the year after Jack's infamous rampage. After the Metropolitan Police failed to solve that case, a 'Murder Squad' was formed within Scotland Yard. It consists of only twelve detectives who cannot begin to solve each and every one of the hundred murders being perpetrated each month. It is Inspector Walter Day's first week on the job when one of their own is found murdered in a particularly grisly manner. Determined to prove himself and seek justice for his fallen comrade, Day dives into the case with both feet." "The new inspector, Day, appeared to be up to the job, but Kett knew little about the man. There was an innocence about him that bothered Kett. He had seen idealistic men come and go, the city leeching hope from them too quickly." I was hooked from the opening line...."Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found." This is a time period I absolutely love and Grecian does a good job bringing the setting to life with lots of atmospheric detail. The plot is multi faceted with more than just the primary case being investigated. Although we know the identity of the perpetrator about halfway through, it didn't detract from the story at all. But it was the characters that were a stand out for me. Grecian has fleshed them out nicely, providing 'interludes' where we learn some of their past. Day is a very likable character, struggling with being in the 'big city'. I quite enjoyed his wife Claire and see her playing a bigger part in the future. Constable Hammersmith is also a character I was drawn to. He's a little more down and dirty than Day, willing to bend the law a wee bit in the name of justice. But the most engrossing was Dr. Bernard Kingsley. He works an unpaid consultant to the Yard, firmly believing that the science he is pursuing will change the face of policing in the future. It was great fun to see the advent of forensics in fingerprinting and evidence collecting. Kingsley is a bit of an enigma as is his daughter Fiona. Grecian has gathered an eclectic, fascinating group of characters, set them down in an intriguing time and place and tied it all together with an ingenious plot. I truly hope this is the beginning of a series - I quite enjoyed The Yard and will definitely pick up the next book by this author.
This was an incredibly suspenseful book and I had a difficult time setting it down once I began reading. The characters are rich and enjoyable to read. I really liked how the author was able to weave different narratives together in a way that kept the tension up and didn't leave me confused. If you are a fan of murder mysteries you must read this!
Wonderful book. I can't wait for the next one in the series. I have read enough books that "sugar coat" real life and I am tired of them. Grecian relates more historically acurate details which I appreciated. This is a great timeline to show how far we have come in the methods of solving crimes and I was so intrigued that I read the book in three days. Keep up the good work.
What a good book!!!! I didn't realize that this was the author's first novel because it is written so well. I could see and know all the characters in my mind's eye. So many interesting stories going on all at once and a great way to see London in the Victorian days. I had no idea how dirty and dangerous London was and how poorly children were allowed to be treated. I hope that Mr. Grecian continues to write about Scotland Yard - or anything for that matter! Great first novel - I couldn't put it down!
I really enjoyed reading this book. Can't wait for books 2 & 3. Keep up the good work Alex! Leslie White
Pardon me for a moment, I am recovering from a massive bookgasm. What was the cause of this bookgasm? Alex Grecian’s The Yard. Now you may be saying “Is it THAT good?” No…..it is better than that. The Yard tells the story of the murder squad formed at Scotland Yard during the time of Jack The Ripper. Okay, you had my attention at Jack The Ripper, you cemented it with the Victorian setting. (Ever since I discovered “Sherlock Holmes” when I was ten years old, I have been a sucker for anything set during this time period). The scary part of this book is not the murders committed, and there are several and they are gruesome. No, the scary part is the detail in the book. I could smell the streets and taste the grit in the air. It is so well researched that even the tiniest detail is not overlooked, but make no mistake, it is not boring. Please, come meet Hammersmith, Day, Blacker, Sir Edward, Blackleg, Fenn, Kingsley, Pringle, the Mayhew Brothers and more. They will become a part of you, and you will want to jump into the next book. Quite simply, this is the BEST book I have read this year. It is the kind of book that you want to see made into a series. Not a movie, but a television series so it lasts longer. Please Mr. Grecian, give us more!
Enjoyable read. The plot thickens, and thickens. The characters are imaginably real, and likable--even the bad guys. Well written--for the enjoyment of the readers.
See above well paced.very well written story.hope to see more from this up and comer. Give The Yard a shot you Won't regret it.
Fascinating look at the beginnings of modern crime investigation. Believeable characters. Well written. A must read for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries.
This authors debut novel is a home run for him.I am a sucker for all things of Victorian England if they are realistic and believe me this book was authentic. The characters were well developed,each one had a different history. The police squad is led by Sir Edward Bradford and Detective Inspector Walter Day with help from Mr. Hammersmith and Inspector Blacker along with eight other constables, this squad is called the Murder Squad.Inspector Day's first case is the murder of Inspector Little and during the investigation another constable is killed with four other men. The murders are thought to be the work of the same man but with the help of Dr.Bernard Kingsley they find that may not be the case. The storyline is fast moving and riveting, I did not want to put it down. I can not wait for this authors next book. Bravo!
Great in detail, and mystery - a must read for anyone who's searching for a page-turner.
Great mysytery, done in Victorian England. Love the characters. Kept me engrossed until the end. I am now on his second The black country
I love the characters and taste of another time and place!
absolutely loved this book. must read for any mystery lover who is into historical fiction and who loves a good murder
It was okay, but I doubt that I'll read any more from this author. The anachronisms bothered me, and I figured out who the killer was fairly early on.
A more harmless specimen I’ve never laid eyes on. Now this is a good idea. Set in Victorian London, this book tells the tale of the Scotland Yard police force, after the disgrace of not catching Jack the Ripper. What follows is an intriguing police procedural, set at the dawn of forensic investigation. I was amazed at the very crude and rudimentary way in which crimes were once investigated, not to mention the shocking number of daily murders in 1889! A very solid and fascinating take on a murder mystery. Not to be missed for fans of gripping historical fiction, or those wondering what a more realistic Sherlock Holmes might be like.
"Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found." I was hooked from the start of The Yard. Alex Grecian did a good job of keeping the plot moving by jumping from perspective to perspective. I loved the addition of the killer’s POV, at least in the beginning. The inclusion of Dr. Kingsley was a nice attempt at dating the work and I enjoyed the discovery of forensic techniques, like fingerprint analysis. However, there were a few issues that kept me from rating this higher. I felt that the killer’s identity was revealed way too soon in the narrative. The perspective of the killer in the beginning of the book was interesting, when his identity was unknown. Once the killer’s identity was revealed, it felt like the Inspectors were being a little dense by not suspecting him. They were looking for a person in the killer’s line of work and he kept hanging around offering to help. The author never manages to fully capture Victorian London. The dialogue was oddly modern and London was so poorly described, but for a few exceptions, the entire book could have taken place in modern day America. I think with a little more effort put into editing some aspects of the writing, I would have rated this 4 ½ stars. As it is, I gave it 3 ½ stars and look forward to the next book in the series.
Another great story by a great author. Story takes you into turn of the century London and you get alook at what it was like to live and for some, to dead..Nice charactors you get to care about.Love the way all the subplots come together to make for one interesting story. On to the authors next book!