Scotland Yard's Murder Squad returns, in the stunning new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national best seller The Yard.
The British Midlands. It's called the "Black Country" for a reason. Bad things happen there.
When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village - and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird's nest - the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard's new Murder Squad. Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they're about to get into. The villagers have intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions abound. And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.
Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help. In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave....
©2013 Alex Grecian (P)2013 Penguin Audio
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The Black Country is an able sequel to The Yard. It picks up several months after the events in The Yard and follows London's own Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith as they travel to an isolated mining village in the English Midlands for a brief (and, they hope, routine) investigation of a missing family feared to be the victims of murder.
Alex Grecian's strengths are creating a tangible sense of place and atmosphere - what he accomplished for post-Ripper London in The Yard he manages equally well here for the village of Blackhampton - and attending to characterization in the midst of action. The recurring characters genuinely grow, and the new characters, both primary and secondary, are three-dimensional and compelling. The crime at the heart of the mystery itself is wrenching in the best possible sense, and as in The Yard, there's a dark undercurrent of bleakness and helplessness that strikes just the right chord. Unlike in its predecessor novel, not every loose end is tied in a bow by the story's end, and I found this more authentic ending worked quite well.
What I appreciate most about this novel is how Grecian portrays the clash between the methodical rationality of emerging forensic science and modern investigative technique and legal procedure, represented by Day, Hammersmith, and Dr. Bernard Kingsley, and the evolved blend of superstition, custom, and folkways represented by the villagers of Blankhampton. The reader feels especially for those such as the schoolteacher who are caught in the middle, both educated and reasonable and yet firmly entrenched in "how things have always been done here." Once again, Grecian captures a unique moment in time regarding law enforcement, scientific thought, and emerging modern practice/process quite well.
Unexpected references to the U.S. Civil War and outstanding characterizations of children (in the best Gothic mode, nothing is more shiver-inducing and creepy than a well-portrayed child) make this novel a particular delight.
The narration is masterful.
Fantastic narration at 1.25 speed. The story is Intriguing with Sherlock Holmes style mystery. A great listenn
Music and book hawk
I love the interaction between Day and Highsmith.
Inpector Day. He is one cool cat.
The flash backs to the American Clivil War and Andersonville
The story line was good but the way the pieces were put together was horrible. Inconsistent, unbelievable character development. The author goes to great length to describe horrific catastrophes and then the character bounces right back like nothing happened. If I could get my credit back I would!
No the first book "The Yard" was a great listen to.
Great performance - the only reason I got through the book.
It's not the question of too many scenes; it's the way a character would get hurt -kicked in the head with a steel boot and then able to hold a hanging man up for ever until the help arrives. Constable is killed and no follow through. The list of missteps like this goes on and on. Ariana Franklin and her Mistress of Death series is so much of the same line and so much more entertaining.
The story is fantastic, the characters are well written and Toby Leonard Moore is amazing! If you liked "The Yard" you'll like this one. Mr. Grecian is a brilliant writer. He paints an extremely vivid picture that grabs the reader and doesn't let go!
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
I read "The Yard' the first in this series. Liked it, enjoyed the characters, plotting, atmosphere, sense of place… you know… So I got "The Black Country", same ensemble but little of the same character. Grecain suffers from description dysfunction. That was a tad tedious in "The Yard" but with everything else going on, well okay. Here… well, I'm thinking that Grecian's a one hit wonder. Plot was reasonably similar, characters stopped growing. Some did walk-ons, like the lead detective's wife and the doctor's daughter, for no reason other than to slow things down more. Did the publisher demand that Grecian fill a specified number of pages? And the plot was … one word… "TEDIOUS".
OK, he does write description nicely, but - as they say in the theatre - when the critics start reviewing the scenery… the play's in trouble. Take a pass on this, but get "The Yard" and enjoy Grecian's one hit, huh?
Oh, and Toby Leanard Moore couldn't save this thing even though he read it reeeeely reeeeely hard.
It is a middle of the pack read, maybe between the top 25 and 50%.
It is atmospheric and there is a good amount of suspense but somehow I found The Yard much more gripping. The narrator is terrific as my ratings suggest, each character speaks in a different voice and accent all of which struck me as well done.
I loved the description of the houses sinking due to all the mining activity going on underneath. I think the arrival of the men from the yard was probably my favorite, I seem to like the beginning of the book better than the end.
II had mixed feelings about this book. First I did not like the setting - a mining community. I would have preferred a London Setting. The author uses weather to help provide the atmosphere of the story. Day and Hammersmith have been sent to this village to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a family.
There is aura of the supernatural which to me diminished the mystery part of it. The story itself takes places over a 2 day period. The village itself is sinking into the ground due to all the mining tunnels which extend under all the houses. The people in the village are very superstitious and this superstition plays a major role in the book. Most of the villagers are sick and dying from a mysterious disease. Day and Hammersmith arrive and a spring blizzard sets in which hampers their ability to investigate and on day 2 they can hardly find their way around the village. Also present are two survivors of the US Civil War and their back-story plays a major role in the mystery of disappearing family.
I had several problems with the author's development of the plot. I found some of the plots a little implausible. It seems bizarre in the middle of this spring snowstorm in an out of the way village that day's wife stops over for a few hours. I found it odd that Day and Hammersmith had arranged for Dr. Kingsley to join them - no real reason for his coming except the author needed his presence for the plot. In parts the plot seemed forced and the failure of the locals to find the missing family is odd, considering where they were found, although Hammersmith easily figures out where they are.
Most of the murders have already taken place by the time Day and Hammersmith arrive and in one case the body is never found and the person is hardly missed. The other deaths which occur when the detectives are in the village can not be classified as murder but more violent deaths in the presence of the detectives.
The end of the book of course has a fast moving Hollywood style disaster ending. The weight of the Snow from the blizzard causes cataclysmic sinking of the village which helps provide the resolution of the mystery as trees fall on buildings, the Railway Station is upended -- but the train is still able to arrive and take the detectives back to London.
This is a fairly fast paced mystery which will provide the reader with plenty of thrills. But I found some of the plot contrivances way too artificial and overall I did not think this was your typical mystery in the way the first book in the series was. Too much of this story is overlaid with an aura of the supernatural, which I do not like. Also the various plot contrivances made the whole books seem more like the script of one of those Hollywood Mega Disaster movies than a real mystery.
I didn't like this book as much as the first one. The mystery was highly transparent. There was a lot of artificial mystery created by people being unwilling to talk about what was going on, which made the story drag in parts. Sergeant Hammersmith's unwillingness to take care of himself when sick was escalated to a ludicrous degree. Still, the characters were highly engaging and kept me going. I enjoyed this book more as a novel/tragedy/character study than as a murder mystery. I don't think I'll be listening to the next books in the series, since it seems to go downhill from here based on what other reviewers are saying. Too bad! I'd have liked to hear more about Inspector Day, Sergeant Hammersmith and Dr, Kingsley! The narrator's accents we're impeccable and made the story come to life, I just would have wished for a bit faster pacing.
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