A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him 'the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes. The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames - and the heads are missing….
©2013 Sarah Pinborough (P)2013 W F Howes Ltd
"Pinborough really knows how to drag the reader into her books." (Simon Kernick, bestselling author of Relentless)
"This is deliciously inventive stuff, delivered with the narrative nous and sense of atmosphere that lifts Mayhem above the raft of many similar novels." (Crime Time)
If you like stories about the supernatural you will love this book, if you think you are getting a mystery story set in 19th Century with Jack the Ripper thrown in - you will be very disappointed. The book focuses on another set of real murders of the same period: The Thames Torso Murders, also called the Embankment murders. These murders, however, were overshadowed by Jack the Ripper and have never really entered into stories about the period as Jack the Ripper did, like those of Jack the Ripper they were never solved.
The Author uses real people from the period, chiefly Dr. Thomas Bond, who was the police surgeon at the time. He is the main character in the book. While Dr. Bond does give some description of the Ripper Murders and the Ripper victims, his real focus is on the Torso Murders.
The Torso murders took place between 1887-1889. Torsos of young women were washing up along the Thames embankment. The bodies were headless and their limbs were hacked off. The limbs were found separately packaged, also washing up along the Thames. These murders were never solved, and since the heads were missing, the victims were never identified.
This sounds like the start of a really good book - but alas it is not, at least for me. Yes it is very atmospheric in describing the London of the period. But I am not a fan of the supernatural and the author attributes the Torso murders to a man who has been "taken over" by a supernatural being. So a lot of the book is consumed not with the mystery, but of finding the individual who was taken over by this supernatural being and when did it happen.
The writing style does not lend itself to a smooth, flowing story. The author uses several different characters to tell the story, although Thomas Bond is the main figure. The chapters in the book alternate between the point of view of different characters -- some written in the first person, other in the third person, and chapters which are newspapers accounts of the crimes. Also the book does not flow chronologically - but tends to skip around between 1887 and 1889, depending on the POV of the character in the chapter. The listener will need to pay close attention to the chapter titles in order to follow this book, as the date is always given as part of the chapter heading.
The Narration is excellent and helps carry the reader along through the story. However, the narrator cannot overcome the long periods of boredom as we explore a character’s thoughts and internal musings. Again if you like supernatural/fantasy mysteries you will love this book. I did not.
This is a dark, grim, paranormal, mystery taking place in London during the late 19th century. consciously parallels Jack the Ripper series of murders as if demonic forces are at work.
As a period piece it works well showing how police investigations worked back then and understand why Jack the Ripper was hard to catch.
However, I have issue with the structure or narrative of the story. Starts off as a mystery but reveals the villain before you have any real chance of guessing. The whole story is slow and drawn out which makes the sudden ending feel anti-climatic. A lot of side questions were left unanswered and not in a prepare for sequel kind of way.
I don't normally read paranormal or horror. This book does not make me want to start.
As a side note: The main character is named Dr. Bond? Seriously, Every time the name is mentioned I was taken out of the story. Kept waiting for him to say "The name's Bond, Dr. Bond.
I'm not normally one to write a review, but I have to say, I was just blown away by the combination of Sarah Pinborough's clever spin on the Ripper folklore and Steven Crossley's spot on narration. Seriously, if you like a story full of murder and mayhem and a little bit of the supernatural, do yourself a favor and read and/or listen to this one.
"A great listen"
This was the first time I've 'read' anything by Sarah Pinborough or heard Steven Crossley read and I will be looking out for both of them again - a great combination of gripping story and excellent narration.
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