Murder is Sarah Pinborough’s sequel to Mayhem, her gaslight chiller set in a London trembling with fear at the deeds of Jack the Ripper. Almost a decade after the Ripper’s final slaying, Murder’s hero, police surgeon Thomas Bond, is just about getting over the trauma induced by his battle with the malign supernatural entity that hid in the Ripper’s shadow.
Slipping into comfortable middle age and the prospect of a good marriage, Bond’s world is upset by the arrival of a young, handsome and wealthy American rival and a series of gruesome crimes; corpses of garrotted babies are recovered from the Thames and a woman is murdered by a blow to skull with a pharmacist’s pestle and left on a train. A visit to an inmate at an insane asylum convinces Bond the evil is back, but the fate awaiting Bond is far nastier than anything he could possibly have imagined.
I found the first half of Murder a bit of a slow burn, but I suspect that’s because I haven’t read Mayhem and I really had no idea of what the characters had already been through. I wish that I had read it before embarking on Murder because it took that much longer to get under the skin of the characters. Midway through the pace picked up as the disparate strands melded together and, once over that particular hump, it positively galloped to its conclusion as the true horror of Bond’s predicament took hold.
The characterisation is spot on for both the middle aged Victorian medics and detectives and the upcoming younger generation looking forward to the adventure of a new century. Late Victorian London is lovingly described from the cosy clutter of the affluent middle classes to the rank and stinking opium dens and wharves of the East End’s riverside. You can almost feel the fog seeping into your clothes as you turn the page. There’s a wee bit of gruesome stuff in the narrative, but it’s not overdone, just enough provide that unsettling shiver and there is a big reveal which I imagine will explain questions left unanswered from Mayhem, I will have to get a copy to find out if I’m right now. Meticulously researched, well written and totally engrossing I give Murder a big 666/666.
Murder is published by the Hothouse’s friends at Jo Fletcher Books and available in hardback (price: £16.99) and as an e-book (£10.99).
Interested in a Gaslight chiller with a bit of ‘orrible moider’? Try these:
Murder by Decree (1979): Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr Watson (a rather splendid James Mason) investigate the Ripper murders and discover a link to High society.
From Hell (1989-1996): Not the film , but Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel. To cover up evidence of a royal bastard fathered upon an East end prostitute, Royal surgeon Sir William Gull sharpens his knife. It’s up to Inspector Abberline to investigate a cover up by influential freemasons and unmask the killer.
Review by Simon Ball
Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here.