The Devil’s Workshop
The third in the Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad series finds Inspector Walter Day investigating an implausible prison escape: a train has been intentionally crashed into Bridewell, releasing four terrible murderers. This isn’t all Day has to worry about – he soon finds himself pitted against none other than Jack the Ripper.
I confess to disappointment with this book, and series. The remarkably strong debut (The Yard) made me eagerly await the second offering. But that novel was less impressive, and this one sees the series descend into cliché and stereotype. While the characterization of Day and his sergeant, Hammersmith, is still engaging, the plotting is rote melodrama (Jack the Ripper strikes again, a shadowy secret society, the protagonist and his family imperiled). Grecian has lost the grasp of successful perspective shift he exhibited in the first novel – there are stretches of back- and-forth dialogue punctuated by long made-for-film action scenes, and too much focus on the villains’ inner thoughts and deeds to leave much mystery or investigative element. This puts the novel firmly in thriller territory.
Though never a cozy read, the series has become progressively more grisly, and this is the quality of suspense it offers – cringing at whose tongue will be pulled out and nailed to the mantel or when the next entrails will appear. This may appeal to fans of the horror genre, but not those looking for a more nuanced police procedural. Here’s hoping Grecian will be able to regain his footing for the next offering in the series… or it will be the last this reviewer reads.