Review: The Yard by Alex Grecian

The Yard by Alex GrecianFormat read: paperback ARC picked up at conference
Formats available: ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Historical mystery
Series: The Murder Squad, #1
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Putnam
Date Released: May 29, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

1889, LONDON.


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.

My Review

Jack the Ripper changed the world. He wasn’t the first serial killer, but he was the first one to create the kind of worldwide media frenzy that we are only too familiar with today.

The Ripper created the type of spectacle that the media loves, in an era when the newspapers (think of that, newspapers) were only just discovering the power of the press to sensationalize.

When Jack wasn’t caught, that frenzy turned on the Metropolitan Police. The late 1880s were the very dawn of forensics and investigative techniques. No one was prepared to profile a serial killer. But the press howled for a scapegoat, and the public lost confidence in the police.

Ripper Street DVD(If you’ve ever watched the TV series Ripper Street, this is the same time period. Not only does it give you a terrific picture of the setting for The Yard, but Ripper Street is just plain awesome. Dark, but awesome.)

The story of The Yard is a murder investigation. After the Ripper killings, this Scotland Yard created not merely what 21st century police would call a Homicide Division, but a Major Case Squad within that division. In other words, a “Murder Squad”.

Their first serious case is the murder of one of their own: a Detective Inspector is found stuffed into a steamer trunk in Euston Station, with his eyes and mouth sewn shut. It is going to be Detective Inspector Walter Day’s first major case since he was promoted to Inspector and moved to London from Devon.

No one is sure he is up to the job, including himself. Because the killer is after him. At least, one of them is.

Escape Rating A: The Yard is an amazingly well put together story. It’s a historic mystery, and it’s a police procedural at a time when that police procedure was being invented. Forensics compared to what we know now were pretty minimal. Reading the story of this “Murder Squad” being created as it solves its first cases is awesome.

As a police procedural, this is a “cop shop” book. Grecian brings the work of the police to life. Even though this is a different era from our own, they still feel like police. A lot of the grunt work is the same, even when technology is non-existent.

The characters were people that you wanted to follow. In this story, those are mainly the men, because women weren’t police in the 19th century, but the glimpses of their backstories have depth. One of the fascinating characters is the pathologist, Dr. Kingley, who seems to be running the entire forensic pathology department as a one-man-band on his own time and his own dime (or shilling).

But the two members of the Murder Squad itself are the people whose eyes we see through. Walter Day, who is new to London and isn’t sure if he should be there, and Constable Hammersmith, who got himself out of the coal mines and was made to be a copper.

Not only are the characters incredibly well-drawn, but the research into the period is meticulous. Grecian has brought the gaslight era back to life in The Yard.

The Black Country by Alex GrecianRight now, I’m trying to figure out why I let the ARC of The Yard sit around since last June. It was on my 2012 most anticipated list, but when I got it I didn’t get around to reading it until now. I’d be kicking myself harder but Murder Squad #2, The Black Country, just came out this month. I can jump right in!

If this sounds like your cup of tea, or if you’re interested in an alternative investigation of the Ripper case itself, try Lyndsay Faye’s Dust and Shadow.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

12 for 2012: My most anticipated books in 2012

It’s very difficult to figure out what books I’m looking forward to most in 2012. I mean when I started to look at lists, I realized that most of what I was anticipating were the next books in series, or new books from authors I already knew. But when I looked at the list of my best reads from this past year, most of them turned out to be authors who were new to me. It’s a puzzle, isn’t it?

This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the series books that I read. I certainly did. But it’s the discoveries that turned out to be the most memorable. Maybe that’s because they were such surprises.

Just the same, these are the books I am planning to stalk NetGalley for review copies. And if I can’t get a review copy? Well, then I’ll just have to buy a copy and review it anyway. There’s even a reading challenge about reading one book a month just for fun!

But the books I’m looking for in 2012 are…drumroll, please!

When Maidens Mourn by C.S. Harris will be the next book in her Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series. What Angels Fear is the first book, and St. Cyr is a detective of the amateur and aristocratic variety. He should be the hero of a Regency romance, and in other circumstances, he might have been. But his service in Wellington’s army has left him much too tormented for that. His personal life makes him a tragic hero; the demons that drive him make him an ideal detective, if only to keep him from becoming a criminal. March can’t come soon enough on this.

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb. This is Eve Dallas’ 34th outing. I’ve read all of them. Usually in one sitting. I still can’t figure out how she does it, but Robb/Roberts does it really, really well. This book means there will be one warm night in February.

Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow. I think I will always have a fondness for Alaska stories. Heck, I still tell Alaska stories, and it’s been 6 years now since I left Anchorage. But living in Alaska is something that changed my perspective, probably forever. The situations Dana writes about in her novels are always a tiny bit familiar, even the ones set in the Bush. Because Alaska is possibly the world’s biggest small town, and there weren’t six degrees of separation, there were three at most. Even for cheechakos like us. Dana writes damn good mysteries, but I always read them for a taste of the place we almost called home.

Master and God by Lindsey Davis. I love Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco series. The whole idea of a hard-boiled detective operating in Imperial Rome has always been utterly delicious. And Falco’s wife Helena Justina is made of awesome. Master and God is not a Falco book. It’s historical fiction set in the same time period. Davis wrote one other work of historical fiction set during the Falco period, The Course of Honor. I read it years ago and it was fantastic. If Master and God is half as good, it will be well worth reading. Come to think of it, I hope people re-discover The Course of Honor. It was incredibly good and I don’t think it got half the attention it deserved.

The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green. This one has been teasing me every time I look at Amazon. The recommender can figure out I want to read this, so it sorta/kinda looks like it’s available, but it’s not. January 3, 2012. Come on already. For those fans of the Nightside, John Taylor is finally going to marry his long-suffering (in more ways than one) girlfriend, Suzie Shooter. He just has one last job to finish up before he meets her at the altar. But no job in the Nightside is ever easy, especially not for John Taylor.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. This sounds like it’s going to be really cool. And really, really funny. And yes, the redshirts in the title are those redshirts. Like in Star Trek. The ones that always get killed at the beginning of the mission. What happens if a bunch of them figure it out? And decide that they are not going to let it happen to them? This sounds like something only Scalzi could possibly do justice to. In June, we’ll all find out.

An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson is the next installment in her series, Theirs Not to Reason Why. I loved the first book, A Soldier’s Duty (reviewed here), and I can’t wait to see where Johnson next leads her time-travelling heroine, Io, in her quest to save the human race from utter extinction. July 31 is way too far away for this one.

Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz. I knew that someday the Krentz was going to link the Victorian era Arcane Society of her Amanda Quick novels to her contemporary Jones & Jones psychic investigations to her futuristic romances under her Jayne Castle pseudonym. I read them all, but the links make for an added twist that I love. In January Copper Beach starts a new subseries, Dark Legacy.

Crystal Gardens is the start of a second subseries, Ladies of Lantern Street, that Krentz is starting in April under her Amanda Quick name. That means it’s a Victorian era story, at least for the first book. All of the Arcane Society books, both contemporary and Victorian, have been excellent romantic suspense.

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh is the 11th book in her Psy-Changelings series, and the first to be published in hardcover. Although her Archangel series hasn’t wowed me, the psy-changeling books have never failed to please. I only wish that the release date was earlier than May. And I wish the US version had a better cover. The UK cover is awesome. (UK on left, US on right.)

Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I want to go back to Liaden. I want to catch up on the books in between (there are several) that I haven’t read, and I want to finally find out how things are going. Liaden is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, space opera science fiction romance universes of all time. Dragon Ship is due Labor Day. I think I have enough time to get caught up. It will be so worth it.

This last book is an absolute flyer. It sounds really cool, but who knows.

The Yard by Alex Grecian. What if, after Scotland Yard failed to capture Jack the Ripper, they started a Murder Squad? 12 detectives specifically charged with investigating the thousands of murders in foggy, grimy, crime-filled London. How much luck would they have? When one of their own is murdered, the Yard’s first forensic pathologist is put on the track of the killer. I love historic mysteries, and this sounds very, very cool. In May, I’ll find out.


These are the books I’m looking forward to this year. I wonder how many will end up on my “best books of 2012” list.

What are your most anticipated books for 2012?