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Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard’s First Cases by Joan Lock

51dify3x7glWhen you think of Victorian policing, the first thing that probably pops into your head is the hunt for Jack the Ripper. From a twenty-first century perspective, the methods undertaken by these officers seem primitive but, compared to when Scotland Yard’s first Detective branch was set up in 1842, they were actually quite organised.  In this book, Joan Lock discusses some of the more well-known cases investigated by the early Scotland Yard detectives along with many of the lesser-known ones.

As someone who is fascinated by Victorian crime, this book looked to be exactly the sort I would love to read, not least because the sub-heading, ‘A Window into the World of Mr. Whicher’, refers to the detective known for investigating the infamous Road Hill House murder. In the end, Whicher plays only a very small role in this book and the aforementioned case, the murder of Savile Kent, is only discussed briefly.

I found some of the cases more interesting to read about than others, although the main emphasis is not on the actual cases themselves but on the methods used to bring the culprits to justice. Joan Lock has certainly researched well in order to show how difficult it was for the police of their day in a job that was underpaid and where they had to face untold danger on a daily basis. It soon becomes apparent that a lot of cases were solved, not as a result of the forensic evidence that is used so much today, but due to the doggedness of the detectives and, often, by complete luck.

For anyone interested in the advent of the police force or Victorian crime in general, then this book is a must-read.

With thanks to Netgalley and Endeavour Press for the ARC.

 

 

Lost and Gone Forever by Alex Grecian

51ZBjJC54-L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Walter Day has been missing for a year, presumably taken by the infamous Jack the Ripper. Assumed dead and forgotten about by many, his wife, Claire and Nevil Hammersmith have not given up hope of finding him alive. Former police sergeant Hammersmith has, with the backing of Claire, set up a private detective agency to try to trace Day’s whereabouts but, a year later,  he is no nearer to solving the mystery. All that is about to change, however, when Jack reveals his true motive for the capture of Detective Day…

Lost and Gone Forever is the fifth of Alex Grecian’s Murder Squad books. After the shocking end of the previous book, The Harvest Man, I had eagerly anticipated finding out what would happen next in the lives of Walter Day and Nevil Hammersmith as I could see no way back for Walter – would he really be lost and gone forever? Thankfully, from the outset, we know that Walter is, indeed, alive, but it soon becomes apparent that this book is going to be quite different from the rest of the series. The initial relief turns to despair as you begin to wonder if he will ever be able to resume his previous life and you will him to return to his distraught family.

In Lost and Gone Forever, Alex Grecian has, again, painted a contrasting picture of London’s criminal classes compared to the wealth of the more well-to-do.  Mr and Mrs Parker are truly chilling characters, matched only by Jack the Ripper himself. It is also pleasing to see the strong roles given to the women in the series: Fiona Kingsley continues to please and the addition of Hetty as a colleague of Hammersmith shows how Victorian women were beginning to play more of a role in society.

Never one to shy away from controversy, the author throws in a massive curve-ball towards the end with the death of a much-loved character. Although this did not have the same shock factor as the conclusion of the previous book, it was, nevertheless, not something I saw coming.

In order to fully appreciate this book, reading the rest of the series is recommended. Hopefully, there will be a book six…

Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray

The year is 1986 and, after receiving a series of threatening letters, a newspaper editor is brutally slaughtered. With little to go on, the police are baffled; their only clue being a rose left near the scene of the crime. The first murder is followed up by a series of equally macabre killings, the carefully placed rose, again, being a clue that the slayings are all linked. Alan Winters, a young Scotland Yard detective, is tasked with finding the murdererer but with Jennifer Chapman, the daughter of the first victim intent on launching her own investigation, will he find the killer before he finds them?

Initially, despite its shocking introduction, I found this book hard to get into as I found it difficult to like any of the main characters. After the second killing, however, I felt that the book took a major turn for the better and the characters began to seem more real and likeable. Setting the book in 1986 was a great idea as whereas nowadays there would be a reliance on forensics and the use of computer databases, the Scotland Yard detectives had to use traditional police legwork to make connections.

As is found in many books of this genre, the story is interspersed with chapters written by the killer, this time in the form of a diary. What is different, however, is that Kevin Murray manages to write the killer’s story in a way that makes you feel empathy towards him – a stark contrast to the feelings you have about him whilst he’s on his killing spree!

Without giving too much away, it becomes obvious where the killer is going to be found but the author succeeds in not making it too easy to discover exactly who it is. The ending tears away at breakneck speed as the guilty party prepares for their final showdown. The slight twist at the end was another clever touch.

This book was received from Urbane Productions and Net Galley in return for an honest review.

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