Book Review: The Black Country by Alex Grecian

July 25, 2018 Book Reviews 4

Book Review: The Black Country by Alex Grecian

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Black Country by Alex Grecian
Genres: Mystery, Historical
Published by Penguin Books on May 20, 2013
Pages: 401
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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Also by this author: The Yard, The Yard, The Black Country , The Devil's Workshop

Second in the Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad historical mystery series and revolving around Inspector Walter Day whose case takes him to the British Midlands in March 1890.

My Take

It’s an interesting combination of immature writing with a tension-filled plot that kept me intrigued. Grecian certainly kept the tension up as he slowly, slowly dribbled out the information on the identities of the American and Campbell as well as the cryptic comments made by Anna and Peter *shiver*, that bit of foreshadowing, Campbell’s admission to murder in London…

Grecian is using a third person global subjective point-of-view, as we hear the thoughts of a variety of characters and experience events at which some of those characters aren’t present.

That village, Blackhampton, sounds quite grim as their homes, the inn, and the church are slowly sinking into the ground due to the tunnels burrowing under the village. That description, the individual confessions of the killers, and events at Andersonville are, unfortunately, the only real bits of show with the rest of the story not really pulling me in, even though this tale of suspense kept me flipping the pages. And whatever happened to Grimes…?

The way in which these villagers are so stubborn in their superstitious beliefs makes me grateful for today and what we know. It does make me wonder what “beliefs” we have now that will be pooh-poohed in the future, lol. Maybe it will be like Dr Kinglsey’s repulsion about Denby using leeches. Such an old-fashioned thing! And now we’re re-discovering the benefits of leeches, lol. It’s a bit of true history combined with Grecian’s ignoring some of the customs and mores of the time.

Hilde does crack me up with her obsession and subsequent disappointment about the eyeball. As for Sutton, I do have to wonder if he isn’t a sociopath. Henry…now Henry is an absolute sweetheart. Grateful for the compassion shown him and willing to pass that kindness forward.

As a continuous connection with The Yard, 1, Scotland Yard is still rebuilding its reputation, and Sergeant Hammersmith is still being poisoned, poor baby.

The Story

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village — and an 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.

The Characters

Inspector Walter Day has been at Scotland Yard for six months now. Claire is his very pregnant wife who tries so hard to learn how to keep house.

After The Yard, the tightly focused Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith, who is tireless in pursuit of justice, has been assigned to Day. Nevil arrives in the village with a chip on his shoulder, having suffered as a child in the mines where he grew up. Mrs Flanders is his landlady.

The twelve-man Murder Squad at…
…Scotland Yard is overseen by Commissioner Sir Edward Bradford. Dr Kingsley is the now-official forensic examiner for Scotland Yard. The simple but compassionate Henry Mayhew is Kingsley’s assistant and names the bird Oliver. Fiona is Kingsley’s fifteen-year-old daughter.

Lacassagne’s patterns of blood is a technique of using blood spatter to determine what happened. Dr Snow proved that typhoid, like cholera, can be spread in a similar manner.

Blackhampton, British Midlands, is…
…a village that ended up centered above a coal mine. Constable Harry Grimes is the village’s policeman. Young Freddy Higgins drives the carriage and does odd jobs. Dr Denby is overworked with the sickness that is plaguing the entire village.

Oliver Price is the only son of their stepmother, Hester Price, their former nanny. Mathilda was the first Mrs Price who disappeared a few years ago. Oliver’s half-siblings include almost-thirteen-year-old creative Peter, eleven-year-old practical Anna, and the brilliant and nasty five-year-old Virginia. Sutton Price is their missing father. There is a housekeeper.

The solitary Hilde Rose found the eyeball. Her father, the obstreperous Bennett Rose, runs the only inn in the village. Mr Brothwood is the vicar; Margaret is his wife. Miss Jessica Perkins is the schoolteacher. Heath Biggs is but one of the sick. The Baggses must leave and enter their home through a window. Nicky is one of their kids.

Calvin Campbell, an ornithologist, is a British citizen who had volunteered with the Union Army. The cowardly American has been hunting for more than twenty years.

West Bromwich, The Midlands, 1871
Seventeen-year-old Hester is the youngest of four sisters and helps out at a brother-in-law’s pub. Mr Stephens cares nothing for her interests but does propose marriage.

Andersonville Prison, Georgia, 1865
Joe Poole is a friend of Calvin’s. Duane is one of the new kids. Richard Devine helps Calvin out. “Grey Eyes” is a sadistic guard.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a muted yellow-green, misty with fog as a lone figure in black overcoat and top hat walks away from us down the cobbled street, buildings on either side, a lone gaslight lit in the upper left corner. All the text is in white, starting with an info blurb at the very top. Below that is the author’s name centered to the right of the light. A sheer black band with orange-gold picot-style borders provides the background for the title. At the very bottom is the series information.

The title is a nickname for this coal-mining region, The Black Country, that happens to be experiencing black times.

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