The Yard by Alex Grecian: Book Review & Giveaway

by Mk

in Crime Story,Cross Cultural,Events,Fiction,Giveaway,Historical,Mysteries & Thrillers

We’re participating in the Debut Authors Giveaway Hop and I’m delighted that our giveaway is for The Yard by debut author Alex Grecian. I love good historical English thrillers and mysteries, so I was delighted when Putnam sent me The Yard. I was really surprised to find that it’s Alex Grecian’s first novel. This is actually a combination of crime fiction and psychological thriller. Now one lucky reader gets a chance to win an advanced readers’ copy (ARC) of The Yard, thanks to the publisher’s generosity!

We’re in Victorian England and it’s 1889. The morale at Scotland Yard is still very low after their failure to capture Jack the Ripper. As if that isn’t bad enough, there are only 12 people assigned to the newly created Murder Squad and they’re sinking under their heavy caseload. Given the low public opinion of their abilities, it’s unlikely they’re going to get the funds to increase the force any time soon. Things just couldn’t be worse for them.

Walter Day is the new guy on the Murder Squad, having moved to London from the Devon police force. It’s the first time there has been a team devoted exclusively to murders but, given the emergence of a new kind of seemingly random killer like the Ripper, this kind of experiment seems justified. The Yard also has a real forensic pathologist for the first time, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Kingsley has all kinds of ideas about how to better determine how someone died and what minute matters might help to catch killers.

And then something worse does happen. One of their own is found murdered inside of a trunk at the train station. Now it’s personal. They are determined to pull out all of the stops to find the killer.

“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 terror 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 moment, 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.”

Constable Nevil Hammersmith and his squad partner particularly take the murder to heart since they were close friends with the victim. They’re determined to catch the killer. Hammersmith and Day both have a keen nose for clues, which could put them in danger’s way.

We as readers learn fairly early in the story that the man who was killed simply had the misfortune to accidentally stumble onto something the obsessive murderer would literally do anything to keep secret. The problem is that, having killed once, the murderer is already planning how he will do a better job of killing if any other member of the Murder Squad discovers his secret or gets too close to pinning the first murder on him.

Across the platform, the detective frowned and gestured to two nearby bobbies.
‘Take this trunk up to University College Hospital right away,’ he said. ‘To Dr. Kingsley’s lab. And be careful with it. The body inside is a detective.’
He spoke too loudly and the crowd gasped. The bald man composed his expression carefully, mirroring the shock he saw on the faces around him…The bald man recognized one of the other police at the edge of the crowd, a young constable named Pringle. He raised a hand and Pringle noticed him…
Hello, sir,’ Pringle said. ‘Bad bit of business this morning.’
‘I overheard some of it,’ the bald man said.”

At the center of the story is the trend during that era of kidnapping small children and selling them for various reasons. Some became prostitutes, some were sold as hard laborers, some became chimney climbers for sweeps, and some were sold as companions for lonely adults. None of them had very long life expectancies. The many ways small children were exploited and mistreated could fill a book all by itself. Children had no advocates or laws to protect them and The Yard brings out just how hopeless their plight was during that time period.

The members of the Murder Squad, led by Sir Edward Bradford, present a telling portrait of the difficult conditions in which law enforcement had to work. The condition of the coroner’s office before Dr. Kingsley took over and the still primitive methods being used to try to gather forensic evidence made me wonder how they ever caught any killer during that period.

“’We’re in the dark here, utterly hated by the people we’re trying to help and blindly seeking things we’ll absolutely never find. It’s a miserable experience that I wouldn’t wish on my most intimate enemy.’ [Detective Blacker]
‘Then why are you here?’
‘Because it’s the only game in town, old man. This is the best and only way to feel you’ve got the inside track. Because what you’ll eventually come to realize is that everyone out there is groping around in the dark, too, but in here we know it. Gives us a leg up.’
He winked at Day and, after a long moment, Day laughed.”

I was captivated by The Yard. It was like being a spectator, looking into the conditions of another time – a time not that long ago but yet so far removed from the extraordinary abilities law enforcement and forensic science have available to them today. On top of that, the story is a compelling one that’s humanized greatly by the personalities of the Murder Squad members and the people with whom they interact, including the serial killer and small time street criminals.

I enjoyed every minute of The Yard, even when I was grimacing at events taking place in the story. Life was not a bed of roses in the late 1800’s, and the author does an excellent job of presenting the conditions in which people lived out their lives. If you like gritty crime stories with a psychological thriller edge then you’re in for a treat! And one lucky reader will win an ARC of their own!

Can’t wait to read it?

The Yard was published on May 29, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it. Logo - 88 x 31iTunes, App Store and Mac App StoreBuy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

I’d love to get your comments on The Yard, Alex Grecian, and/or this review.

If you like this review, please “like” it, +1 it, and share it with your friends!

Our Giveaway:
One lucky reader will win an ARC of The Yard by Alex Grecian!

Once you’ve entered our giveaway, click on the link just under the Rafflecopter form to go to all of the other giveaways in the Debut Author Giveaway Hop!

Giveaway Rules:
1) The deadline for entries is Tuesday night, 6/12/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 15 years old to enter this giveaway.
4) You must use the Rafflecopter form. Even if leaving a comment is part of the giveaway, you must use the form in addition to leaving the comment for the comment to count as an entry.
5) If you already follow PopcornReads on Twitter or Facebook, you must still complete that part of the Rafflecopter form for your follow to count as an entry.
6) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you.
7) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!

If you’ve never used Rafflecopter before to enter a giveaway, here’s a little 45 sec. video on how to do it:

How to Enter Rafflecopter Giveaways from Rafflecopter on Vimeo.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here to link to all of the other giveaways in the Debut Author Giveaway Hop!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

DogsMom June 11, 2012 at 4:47 am

I am a light history buff. I enjoy historical pieces but no not mind authors taking creative liberties.
I am also a fan of the tv CSI series (and Bones type shows) so this sounds like I would enjoy the story.


Anita Yancey June 11, 2012 at 6:03 am

Great review. I didn’t know that they even had forensic pathologist in 1889. This book sounds so interesting, and I just love psychological thrillers. Thanks for having this giveaway.


Mk June 11, 2012 at 7:36 am

I’m not sure they were called that – my bad. I’m not even sure whether this doctor was a pathologist but he had compelling reasons for taking this job.


Carol M June 11, 2012 at 6:35 am

I love mysteries of all kinds but psychological thrillers are my favorite. I especially like to that in it set in Victorian England. This sounds like a book I would really enjoy!


desiree June 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

i can say the book cover catch my eye first then the story i like all type of books and read and blog on them


Meredith Jones June 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I like that one of the characters is a forensic pathologist.


DM Yates June 21, 2012 at 7:42 am

now this looks to be an excellent summer read.


Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: