The Black Country
In The Yard, Alex Grecian introduced Inspector Walter Day of the newly formed Scotland Yard murder squad. In this sequel, Day travels to the British Midlands, a “Black Country” of suspicious inhabitants and dangerous coal mines, to investigate the disappearance of a mother, father, and young child. As townspeople mysteriously fall ill and a hideous stranger stalks the night, Day’s missing persons case evolves into something darker.
The Yard was set in a depraved Victorian London, with all the sinister ambiance that allows, but Grecian manages to make the small English village just as menacing. His setting is evocative, tilted houses slowly settling into the mining tunnels over which they were constructed, and his prose is vivid – especially when describing gore. The characterization is less strong than in the debut, however, and those who haven’t read that novel will find the backstory perfunctory and cameo character appearances (e.g. Day’s wife) irrelevant. Still, Day and his sergeant have an Inspector Lewis/Sergeant Hathaway vibe that makes for a successful pairing. While the mystery is resolved for the reader far earlier than for the detectives, the read is still thrilling, and the ending is a bloodbath reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedy. Recommended for those who like their mysteries dark.