“If Charles Dickens isn’t somewhere clapping his hands for this one, Wilkie Collins surely is.”—The New York Times Book Review
Victorian London—a violent cesspool of squalid sin. The twelve detectives of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad are expected to solve the thousands of crimes committed in the city each month. Formed after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure in capturing Jack the Ripper, they suffer 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.
The squad itself it being targeted and the devious killer shows no signs of stopping. But Inspector Day has one more surprise, something even more shocking than the crimes: the murderer’s motive.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found. A black steamer trunk appeared at Euston Square Station sometime during the night and remained unnoticed until early afternoon of the following day. The porter discovered it after the one o’clock train had departed, and he opened the trunk when it proved too heavy for him to lift.
He immediately sent a boy to find the police.
Detective Inspector Walter Day was first at the scene, and he directed the many bobbies who arrived after him. He had come to London only the week before. This was his first crime scene and he was clearly nervous, but the blue-uniformed bobbies knew their job well and did not require much from him. They pushed back the commuters who had gathered round the trunk and began to scour the station for possible weapons and other clues.
An hour later, Dr Bernard Kingsley entered the station all in a rush and headed for the knot of people gathered on the gallery of the booking office. The trunk had been left against the railing overlooking the platform. Kingsley brushed past Inspector Day and knelt on the floor.
He opened his satchel and drew out a cloth tape measure, snaked it between his fingers, moving it up and across. The trunk was a standard size, two by three by three, glossy black with tin rivets along the seams. He closed the lid and brushed a finger across the top. It was clean; no dust.
With his magnifying glass in hand, he scuttled around the trunk, scrutinizing the corners for wear. He licked his finger and rubbed a seam along one side where black paint had been applied to cover a crack. He was aware of Day hovering over his shoulder and, less intrusive, the bobbies at the station’s entrance pushing back fresh onlookers who had arrived from the street outside. The lower classes were always out for a spectacle, while the better-off walked briskly past, ignoring the to-do.
His preliminary examination out of the way, Kingsley opened and shut the trunk’s lid several times, listening to the hinges, then eased it back until the edge of the lid rested against the floor. He peered into the trunk for a long moment, ignoring the sickly sweet odor of death. The body inside was folded in on itself, knotted and mashed into the too-small space like so much laundry. One shoe was missing, and Kingsley presumed it was somewhere at the bottom of the trunk, under the body. The man’s suit was gabardine, the hems lightly worn, dirt pressed into the creases. His arms and legs were broken and wrapped around one another.
Kingsley took a pair of tongs from his satchel and used them to move an arm out of the way so he could see the man’s face. The skin was pearl grey and the eyes and mouth were sewn shut with heavy thread, the pattern of parallel stitches like train tracks across the man’s lips. Kingsley looked up at Day. When he spoke, his voice was low and measured.
“Have you identified him yet?”
Day shook his head no.
“It’s one of you,” Kingsley said.
“One of me?”
“The body is that of a detective. This is Inspector Little.”
Day backed away to the railing and held up his hands, warding off the unpleasant thought.
“It can’t be. I spoke with Little just last evening.”
“It’s not that I doubt you,” Day said. “But Inspector Little . . .”
“Come and see for yourself,” Kingsley said.
Day stared at him.
“I said come here. Please.”
Day approached the trunk and swallowed hard before looking down.
“Breathe through your mouth, Mr Day. The odor isn’t pleasant.”
Day nodded, panting heavily.
“I suppose it is Mr Little. But what have they done to him?”
“You can see what’s been done. The question is why has it been done?”
“I’m afraid it’s all too human.”
“Cut those off him. Get that off his face. We can’t have a detective of the Yard trussed up like a . . . like a Christmas goose, for God’s sake.”
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.
The morale of the Metropolitan Police Force had reached its lowest point during the Ripper murders of the previous year and had not yet recovered. The files of the Whitechapel murders had not been closed as the case was still ongoing, but nobody in London trusted the police to do their job. Jack had escaped and the detectives of the Yard had never even come close to finding him. The unsolved case was a harsh reminder of their fallibility, and it hung over their heads every morning when they walked through the door of the back hall. The Ripper was still out there somewhere, and it was likely he’d remain out there.
Kingsley stood and put a hand on Day’s shoulder. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible.
“I will most assuredly make Inspector Little presentable again. There will be a time and a place to mourn him. Here and now, you must fix your mind on justice. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Little’s killer is watching us, and your demeanor may set the course for the investigation to come. You must appear to be strong and rational.”
“To work, then,” Kingsley said.
He grabbed a handle and lifted one end of the trunk, grunted, and set it back down.
“Inspector Day,” he said, “you look like an able fellow. Lift this end, would you?”
“Where shall I put it?”
“Not the entirety of the trunk, just pull upward on the handle and get this thing off the ground a bit, would you?”
Kingsley removed his hat and set it on a bench along the far wall of the gallery. He draped his coat over the arm of the bench and strode back to where Day had an end of the trunk lifted off the ground. The two men were a study in contrasts. Dr Kingsley was short and thin with sharply chiseled features and wild, prematurely grey hair that matched his eyes. Inspector Day was tall and built like an ox through the chest and shoulders. His short dark hair was combed back from his wide forehead, and his expression was permanently helpful, as if he were in search of an old lady he might escort across the street. He displayed the easy physical confidence that some big men had, but his features were fine and sensitive and his eyes were sad. Kingsley found it impossible to dislike the young detective.
“Higher, would you?” Kingsley said. “That’s better.”
He got down on his hands and knees and crawled under the end of the trunk, Day straining above him. It didn’t occur to him that Day might drop the trunk on his head. Men like Day used their brains to move their muscles about. Their muscles were useful enough.
Kingsley inspected the planks of the platform floor, peering into crevices in the ancient wood, worn smooth by the shoes of countless travelers.
“Aha!” he said. He scrambled backward until his head was clear of the bottom of the trunk and stood up, using one hand to smooth his waistcoat over his stomach. The thumb and index finger of his other hand were pinched together, and he held them up to the light.
“It’s a hair,” he said.
“No, lad. It’s a thread. This end is frayed a bit where it’s been cut. Here, you see?”
“The same thread used to sew his mouth and eyes?”
“Different color. That was black. This is dark blue. It could be a coincidence, someone lost a thread from her coat, perhaps, but I don’t think so. I think your killer came prepared with at least two colors of thread. And why would that be?”
He abruptly dropped to the ground and began to crawl around the platform, his magnifying glass playing over the surface, his long fingers poking into the corners where the wall joined the planks of the floor. After several long minutes in which the onlookers behind the railing began to grow restless, Kingsley murmured an exclamation and held his finger up to the light. A drop of blood formed on his fingertip, and Kingsley smiled. He sucked the blood from his finger and turned his magnifying glass around, using the blunt handle to scrape dirt away from the wall.
He stood and trotted back to where Day was still holding up an end of the trunk. Kingsley held out his hand, displaying his find for Day to see.
“Needles,” Day said.
Kingsley grinned. “Three needles, Inspector Day. Three, where one might do. I’d say our killer’s made a telling mistake. Give me your handkerchief.”
“Is it in my breast pocket?”
“I don’t see one there.”
“I may have come out without it today.”
Kingsley nodded and turned to the nearest constable.
“You there, have you a handkerchief ?”
A tall, lanky constable looked up from the side of the platform where he seemed to be scanning the crowd. His eyes were bright and intelligent and nearly hidden behind long feminine lashes. He jumped slightly at the sound of Kingsley’s voice.
“What’s your name?” Kingsley said.
“You sound Welsh, sir.”
“You’re watching the crowd?”
“What the detective said, about it being another detective in the box, it surprised people.”
“You were looking to see who among that crowd wasn’t surprised. Who might have already known there was a detective in the trunk.”
“I didn’t see anything unexpected.”
Kingsley nodded. “Still,” he said, “it was a worthy idea. How long have you been with the force?”
“Two years, sir.”
“I’m surprised I haven’t made your acquaintance before this. I shall watch your career with interest. Now, I wonder if I might borrow your handkerchief?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Thank you, Mr Hammersmith.”
Kingsley took the offered kerchief and glanced at it. He looked up at the constable.
“This is not particularly clean.”
“I apologize, sir. I’ve been at it now for two shifts and haven’t had a chance to launder anything.”
Indeed, Hammersmith looked sloppy. His blue uniform was wrinkled, his shirt was untucked on one side, and the cuffs of his trousers were muddy. There was a hangdog air about him, but in his body language and bearing he somehow gave the impression of utter competence.
“Yes, well, thank you, Hammersmith. I shall return this as soon as I possibly can.”
“Of course, sir.”
Kingsley wrapped the needles in the soiled square of cloth. He tucked the handkerchief and the short piece of blue thread into his vest pocket to be examined later.
“This one is a challenge. A real challenge.”
Kingsley smiled and scanned the platform one last time, barely taking in the crowd of onlookers.
“Wonderful,” he said. “Simply wonderful. You can let that down now.”
Day eased the end of the heavy trunk back to the platform floor and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Have two of the men bring that round to the college,” Kingsley said. “I’ll want to examine Little’s body, but I’m not going to do it here. Have the rest of these bobbies search the platform carefully for a man’s left shoe. I suspect it’s in the trunk, but there’s no harm in putting them to work.”
Kingsley shrugged back into his coat, picked up his hat, and walked away. Halfway to the far edge of the platform, he turned and walked back to where Day still stood. He leaned in and whispered so the onlookers wouldn’t overhear. “Shut the lid on that trunk,” he said. “We don’t want that rabble ogling a dead detective.”
What People are Saying About This
Alex Grecian's The Yard is a brilliantly crafted debut novel with unforgettable characters. An utterly gripping tale perfectly evokes Victorian London and brings you right back to the depraved and traumatic days of Jack the Ripper. And I mean that in the best possible way. (Lisa Lutz, author of The Spellman Files)
“This excellent murder mystery debut introduces a fascinating cast of characters. Grecian displays a flair for language as well as creating vivid (and occasionally gruesome) depictions of places and events.” – Library Journal
Lusciously rich with detail, atmosphere and history, and yet as fast paced as a locomotive, The Yard will keep you riveted from page one. It's truly a one- or two-sitting read. (Jeffery Deaver, author of Carte Blanche and The Bone Collector)
Alex Grecian, author of THE YARD, on his Research.
The London County Council was formed in 1889 and promptly went about renaming many of the streets in Inner London. They did it again four decades later, which means that current maps don't accurately reflect the London of 1889, the year The Yard takes place. The lay of the land has changed at least twice since then.
But I didn't know that when I sat down to write The Yard. I knew where Scotland Yard was and I knew where Inspector Day lived, and that was enough to start writing the first draft. So when the good inspector walked home late at night, he was walking up the wrong street.
I love research. It's not just preparation for me, it's an ongoing part of the writing process. I tend to read as much about a place and time as possible before getting to work on a story, though too much research early on can bog me down.
I won't know what I need to know until I need to know it. For instance, I didn't plan a scene in which Claire Day ironed her husband's trousers. (Why would I plan that?) But the need to iron Inspector Day's pants cropped up and I discovered that I had to know how an iron worked in 1889 and, if at all possible, actually use one. It wasn't a vital detail, not the sort of thing to make an American writer jet over to England on the spur of the moment. So I did the next best thing. I visited Pennsylvania. There are several museums in Pennsylvania that have seemingly preserved everything anybody's ever used, and they've kept it all clean and in working order. So I was able to see and touch an iron, and a vintage toaster, and many of the other mundane household items I needed to know about.
Of course, nothing in Pennsylvania could help me with those London street names. I eventually tracked down an enormous vintage map of Victorian London. It's framed in sections on one wall of my office, so I'll never get the streets wrong again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Any notion of Victorian England as a place of sweetness and light will be quickly disspelled by Alex Grecian's new book, whose grim descriptions of 19th-century London are more Dickens than Austin. Most of the city is filthy. Life is cheap among the masses of the poor. Cutthroats mingle with pickpockets, prostitutes, and thieves. The dead are thrown into charnel houses. The indigent and mentally ill are warehoused under appalling conditions. And lower-class children have no rights or protection - they are used and abused, disappear daily, are tossed like trash when they've served their purpose. An understaffed police force struggles under a staggering case load - they can barely get to the routine crimes, much less solve the murders that constantly occur. And they are in disgrace with the public after no success in finding Jack the Ripper. Forensics at this time are primitive, to put it kindly. The author adroitly handles several plot lines: a new killer is targeting police officers; a child has been kidnapped and forced by his unstable new "father" to replace a lost son; full-bearded men have their throats slit and are found clean-shaven. The officers who will undoubtedly be the lead characters in subsequent books in the series are often flawed, but always sympathetic. One is a newlywed who sometimes longs for the clear air of his home in Devon. Another is a scrapper who fought to leave the mines where he worked as a child. A forward-thinking medical examiner adds interest, especially when he begins experimenting with an early form of fingerprinting. Surprisingly, in all this grubby reality are some unexpected flashes of humor. I actually found myself laughing out loud at the welcome comic relief. However, these moments are few and far between, and the reader is soon immersed once again in the scary, overcrowded London of the 1800s. I look forward to the next in this fine series.
I can't wait to read more novels by Alex Grecian!!! I could not put this book down. I truly loved the characters. The book had a bit of historical accuracy thrown in, specifically the advent of fingerprint comparison, and Henry Faulds. I am a Crime Scene Investigtor and Fingerprint examiner and enjoyed that Grecian chose to add these types of details into his novel. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone!!
When I review a book I don't go into all the details of plot summary. People can read the above overview to get those details. What I do like to do is give a few reasons as to why I liked or didn't like the book. Having said that, this was an absolute marvel of a debut novel. If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly those set in Victorian London, then you'll enjoy The Yard. (It's right up there with The Alienist by Caleb Carr; if you haven't read that one you should.) The historical details and aspects were spot on. Made me feel as if I were walking the foggy streets of Victorian London. The characters, both the protagonists and antagonists, were both intriguing and interesting. Also, I liked the fact that the reader knew who the killer(s) was pretty early on in the book, but you still didn't know how the police were going to apprehend the killer(s). That is where the reader is treated to a marvelous display of police procedures & detective work at its best. Why didn't I rate it 5 stars? I only reserve that rating for the absolute best, and this one fell just a little short of that rare rating. Buy it, read it and enjoy!
The Yard is Alex Grecian's debut novel. And this reader has put him firmly on her 'must read' list. London, England 1889 -the year after Jack's infamous rampage. After the Metropolitan Police failed to solve that case, a 'Murder Squad' was formed within Scotland Yard. It consists of only twelve detectives who cannot begin to solve each and every one of the hundred murders being perpetrated each month. It is Inspector Walter Day's first week on the job when one of their own is found murdered in a particularly grisly manner. Determined to prove himself and seek justice for his fallen comrade, Day dives into the case with both feet." "The new inspector, Day, appeared to be up to the job, but Kett knew little about the man. There was an innocence about him that bothered Kett. He had seen idealistic men come and go, the city leeching hope from them too quickly." I was hooked from the opening line...."Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found." This is a time period I absolutely love and Grecian does a good job bringing the setting to life with lots of atmospheric detail. The plot is multi faceted with more than just the primary case being investigated. Although we know the identity of the perpetrator about halfway through, it didn't detract from the story at all. But it was the characters that were a stand out for me. Grecian has fleshed them out nicely, providing 'interludes' where we learn some of their past. Day is a very likable character, struggling with being in the 'big city'. I quite enjoyed his wife Claire and see her playing a bigger part in the future. Constable Hammersmith is also a character I was drawn to. He's a little more down and dirty than Day, willing to bend the law a wee bit in the name of justice. But the most engrossing was Dr. Bernard Kingsley. He works an unpaid consultant to the Yard, firmly believing that the science he is pursuing will change the face of policing in the future. It was great fun to see the advent of forensics in fingerprinting and evidence collecting. Kingsley is a bit of an enigma as is his daughter Fiona. Grecian has gathered an eclectic, fascinating group of characters, set them down in an intriguing time and place and tied it all together with an ingenious plot. I truly hope this is the beginning of a series - I quite enjoyed The Yard and will definitely pick up the next book by this author.
This was an incredibly suspenseful book and I had a difficult time setting it down once I began reading. The characters are rich and enjoyable to read. I really liked how the author was able to weave different narratives together in a way that kept the tension up and didn't leave me confused. If you are a fan of murder mysteries you must read this!
Wonderful book. I can't wait for the next one in the series. I have read enough books that "sugar coat" real life and I am tired of them. Grecian relates more historically acurate details which I appreciated. This is a great timeline to show how far we have come in the methods of solving crimes and I was so intrigued that I read the book in three days. Keep up the good work.
What a good book!!!! I didn't realize that this was the author's first novel because it is written so well. I could see and know all the characters in my mind's eye. So many interesting stories going on all at once and a great way to see London in the Victorian days. I had no idea how dirty and dangerous London was and how poorly children were allowed to be treated. I hope that Mr. Grecian continues to write about Scotland Yard - or anything for that matter! Great first novel - I couldn't put it down!
I really enjoyed reading this book. Can't wait for books 2 & 3. Keep up the good work Alex! Leslie White
Pardon me for a moment, I am recovering from a massive bookgasm. What was the cause of this bookgasm? Alex Grecian’s The Yard. Now you may be saying “Is it THAT good?” No…..it is better than that. The Yard tells the story of the murder squad formed at Scotland Yard during the time of Jack The Ripper. Okay, you had my attention at Jack The Ripper, you cemented it with the Victorian setting. (Ever since I discovered “Sherlock Holmes” when I was ten years old, I have been a sucker for anything set during this time period). The scary part of this book is not the murders committed, and there are several and they are gruesome. No, the scary part is the detail in the book. I could smell the streets and taste the grit in the air. It is so well researched that even the tiniest detail is not overlooked, but make no mistake, it is not boring. Please, come meet Hammersmith, Day, Blacker, Sir Edward, Blackleg, Fenn, Kingsley, Pringle, the Mayhew Brothers and more. They will become a part of you, and you will want to jump into the next book. Quite simply, this is the BEST book I have read this year. It is the kind of book that you want to see made into a series. Not a movie, but a television series so it lasts longer. Please Mr. Grecian, give us more!
Enjoyable read. The plot thickens, and thickens. The characters are imaginably real, and likable--even the bad guys. Well written--for the enjoyment of the readers.
See above well paced.very well written story.hope to see more from this up and comer. Give The Yard a shot you Won't regret it.
Fascinating look at the beginnings of modern crime investigation. Believeable characters. Well written. A must read for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries.
This authors debut novel is a home run for him.I am a sucker for all things of Victorian England if they are realistic and believe me this book was authentic. The characters were well developed,each one had a different history. The police squad is led by Sir Edward Bradford and Detective Inspector Walter Day with help from Mr. Hammersmith and Inspector Blacker along with eight other constables, this squad is called the Murder Squad.Inspector Day's first case is the murder of Inspector Little and during the investigation another constable is killed with four other men. The murders are thought to be the work of the same man but with the help of Dr.Bernard Kingsley they find that may not be the case. The storyline is fast moving and riveting, I did not want to put it down. I can not wait for this authors next book. Bravo!
The story keep you reading even past your bedtime
Not since Caleb Carr's, "The Alienist," have I read a police novel I have enjoyed this much! Such a wonderful and interesting collection of people coming from all walks of society trying to make Victorian London a better place for all! The characters are well rounded and believable and the writing is amazing; I could barely put the book down and was constantly wondering what would occur next!
Great in detail, and mystery - a must read for anyone who's searching for a page-turner.
Great mysytery, done in Victorian England. Love the characters. Kept me engrossed until the end. I am now on his second The black country
I love the characters and taste of another time and place!
absolutely loved this book. must read for any mystery lover who is into historical fiction and who loves a good murder
It was okay, but I doubt that I'll read any more from this author. The anachronisms bothered me, and I figured out who the killer was fairly early on.
I bought this for an easy beach read and found the characters to be well developed and the plot interesting!
Read in May, 2012Requested on EdelweissOverall Rating: 4.50Story Rating: 4.25Character Rating: 4.75First thought when finished: What a bloody good mystery The Yard turned out to be! Highly Enjoyable!What I Loved: Let me give you a list...1: The time setting! Set right after Jack the Ripper when the London Police are still facing the fact that they failed in a very big case. This made the perfect setting for a really gritty mystery and a must solve attitude.2: The realistic view of Police: Alex Grecian did his homework and I always love that! He knew that each department was created equal and that each served a purpose. His weaving of characters from each department, their working together, and attitude towards each other was very well done.3:The Characters! My freaking favorite part of the story! Each character was multifaceted and the murder squad was just fascinating all together. I think each person added his own unique thoughts, work ethics, and personality into the mix. This was just fantastic.I am not going to give anything away--seriously you need to read this book without any hints to what happens. I think you will figure out parts as you go along but the journey is what is fantastic. What I Liked: What a great reminder that life itself was dangerous during this time. I think fans of the period will appreciate how true to the time that Alex Grecian tried to stay. He was descriptive of everything from forensics to daily things we take for granted. All of this added a rich layer of detail to the story and managed to make it more vivid!Final Thought: Fans of Sherlock Holmes and similar settings will really enjoy The Yard! This is one that goes on my keeper shelf!
Reason for Reading: I love Victorian mysteries, especially when they actually focus on early policing.Superb! Splendid! I am thrilled to hear this is the first in a proposed new series. The Yard has everything I want in a Victorian crime: authenticity, atmosphere and a peek into the underbelly of Victorian life. Though none are used as characters in the book, the book is peopled with real-life personages from the era to lend authenticity and one can tell much research has been done on the author's part as the book lives and breathes Victorian London, one can almost see the fog rising from the pages and smell the stench as a page is turned. Grecian has devised a wonderfully wicked murder mystery that involves not only one but two serial killers and not only two crimes but a handful of others which keep the characters busy and the reader on his toes trying to piece things together. This is one of those mysteries where we the reader are given access to the murderer from the beginning and the sport is in watching how the police solve the case. Mind you, there are also a handful of other crimes going on, some related, some not, but all somehow coming together one way or another. Incredibly genius really. I so enjoy a clever mystery and this is one by far.A major aspect of the novel is the introduction of forensic sciences. This book focuses on fingerprints and how they were first discovered and put into practice in policework. The general disdain for the practice except for a few forward thinking people and the amazing results as the "coroner" for the Yard applies them to the job. We also are introduced to a great cast of characters, main and auxiliary, who hopefully will be following into the next book of the series. Both of the main sleuths are green, but very clever. Quite different from each other in circumstances and character, Detective Inspector Walter Day and Constable Nevil Hammersmith both share a sense a duty and justice. I did find the first hundred pages slow reading, but that is the type of book this is, they were slow, but not boring in the least. I was drawn in right from the captivating first sentence and while the first hundred pages slowly draws us into the era, the characters, the cases on hand, the rest of the book was a riveting, fast, hard-to-put-down mystery of London's underbelly, depravity and trauma. Book two's focus is said to be on the introduction of the use of photography into policing and I'm looking forward to it with glee!
Loved it! Best historical mystery I have read in long time. If you are a fan of the victorian period this is a must read. Adding Alex Grecian to my must read list and looking forward to the next in this series.