“The Yard” by Alex Grecian is a Strong Entry in the Crime Novel Genre
I admit it, I am totally addicted to author Michael Connelly and his often creepy crime series featuring Harry Bosch. But I’m all caught up with nowhere to go for more Harry, so I was delighted to discover Alex Grecian and his Scotland Yard series. The first book in the series, The Yard (Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad) brings the darker side of Victorian Age to life so vividly that it’s hard to shake off the shivers.
The Yard introduces Walter Day, a detective who has just moved to the city to join the Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad, a pool of 12 detectives focused on solely solving violent crimes.
A newly conceived task force, this team of 12 is assigned to cover all the murders in a city of roughly 6 million people, a daunting if not impossible responsibility. When one of the squad’s own detectives is murdered, Day is assigned to find the killer. But that’s just the starting point; this story quickly departs from “the usual” Victorian crime novel.
Grecian creates a vivid picture of the grimmer side of life in 1800’s London – after all, this is the age of incurable disease, child labor and rampant crime – but he makes his story all the more compelling by introducing characters so real that you can easily see them in your mind’s eye. You hope for them. You fear for them. You’re not sure they’re going to survive in a city where it’s easy to go missing and quickly be forgotten.
In picking through the lives of Grecian’s characters, it’s easy to see how it would be easy to be afraid, all the time, in the London of the late 1800s. Diseases like tuberculosis (consumption) and cholera are a fact of everyday life, with no hope for a cure. Medicine, as a scientific methodology is in its infancy. The late 1880s also mark the Industrial Age, fueled by coal and accompanied by air pollution that blackens the London skyline and its citizen’s lungs.
This is also the era of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who was never apprehended and has captured our imaginations ever since. But as this book, and Grecian’s subsequent stories illustrate, Jack is just one of many twisted minds who haunt the streets of London.
Walter Day, as a newcomer to the team and the city, finds himself confronting resentment from his teammates who believe he is not equipped to find out who killed their fellow detective. He comes face to face with crimes he’d never encountered in his previous life. He doesn’t let any of this shake his resolve. I liked watching his character unfold as he doggedly sifts through a smattering of clues and challenges traditional police methods of the time.
Move over Harry Bosch. Your Victorian counterpart has debuted. Walter Day is unforgettable and leaves the reader wanting to see more of him.