Monday, May 28, 2012

Pierce’s Picks: “The Yard”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

The Yard, by Alex Grecian (Putnam):
London’s Metropolitan Police Force has already had to weather severe public criticism for its failure to capture or even identify “Jack the Ripper,” who brutally murdered at least five women in the city’s Whitechapel district in 1888. Now, a year later, the force is facing another set of killings, only the targets this time are members of Scotland Yard’s own Murder Squad. Newlywed former country cop Walter Day has just become the 12th member of that company, yet he’s asked to head up the investigation. Fortunately, he can turn for assistance to Dr. Bernard Kingsley, a forward-thinking pathologist who employs such “radical” methods as fingerprinting to advance the investigation. Meanwhile, young Constable Nevil Hammersmith delves into the case of a boy abandoned in the chimney of a private residence--a case that will lead the constable to be stripped and drugged by the home’s attractive mistress, and make him a target for the same slayer Day and Kingsley are intent on bringing down. Author Alex Grecian has penned the long-running graphic novel series Proof, but this is his first historical thriller. And it’s a winner, filled with Victorian arcana and eccentric characters and more humor than one expects from such a work. Not every subplot works perfectly, but enough do that you should be glad to hear this is the first entry in a new series.

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Also worth looking for this week is Venice Noir (Akashic Books), edited by Maxim Jakubowski and corralling short stories from such familiar talents as Peter James, Emily St. John Mandel, Barbara Baraldi, Matteo Righetto, Isabella Santacroce, and Rap Sheet contributor Michael Gregorio. Together they appear determined to prove that, no matter how beautiful and magical old Venice is, it boils with the same varieties of violence and malignancy you’d find in any other of the world’s metropolises. Darn them!

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