Book Review: The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian

Posted January 2, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Devil’s Workshop 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 Devil's Workshop by Alex Grecian
Genres: Historical, Mystery
on May 20, 2014
Pages: 386
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: The Yard, The Yard, The Black Country, The Black Country , The Harvest Man, Lost and Gone Forever

Third in Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad historical mystery series and revolving around Inspector Walter Day. This story is set in London, the spring of 1890.

My Take

I’m torn between Day’s justice and the group’s justice. I’m all in favor of keeping it legal, and yet too often justice isn’t done. That said, this group carried it too far. Kill ’em off before they escape, I say.

Jack makes an interesting point about perspective with his dream of five people whom he transformed and their experiences of the afterlife. It does make sense, in a horrible way. Lord knows, everyone’s perspective is unique.

Grecian has definitely studied up on serial killers. He must have, the way he interprets how Jack the Ripper speaks of his “mission”, of his desire to transform his selected candidates. It’s also a truly disgusting set of murderers he’s included with Jack.

It’s an interesting trip beneath London, gruesome and yet not as bad as I would have thought. Oh well, I suppose it’s because Grecian makes up for the horrible in other ways…urk…

We do hear and experience the thoughts, emotions, and events surrounding a number of the characters including Walter, Claire, Hammersmith, Fiona, the very complicated Saucy Jack, Griffin, Cinderhouse, and Constable Winthrop, as it’s a third person global subjective point-of-view.

And it’s an odd combination of heroism and stupidity that dragged me down, leaving me with plenty of questions, from why would Claire be sleeping under her heirloom coverlet when she could deliver any time? Although I must grant her some wit for her reasons for choosing a valet’s son over someone more in her class. For that matter, why is it so easy to get into the Days’ house? Why isn’t that fence higher? How lame is Fiona that she leaves the kitchen door open??

A teeny bit of back history on Day’s mother, and it was not the impression I had gotten about her having died in childbirth!

The story makes an about-face with one of the heroes. One I had not expected. As for that cliffhanger of an ending, I’m peeved. Why would Sir Edward make such a stupid decision? What will Day and Hammersmith do? How much will they recover? What new crimes will arise from it all…

The Story

A small group of the city’s elite, fed up with the murder rate, have made it their business to capture violent criminals and mete out their own terrible brand of retribution. Now they are taking it a step further: They have arranged for four murderers to escape from prison, and into the group’s hands.

But the plan goes wrong. The killers elude them, and now it is up to Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and the rest of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to hunt the convicts down before they can resume their bloody spree.

But the Murder Squad may already be too late. The killers have retribution in mind, and one of them is heading straight toward a member of the Murder Squad, and his family. And that isn’t even the worst of it.

During the escape, one of the killers has stumbled upon the location of another notorious murderer, one thought gone for good, but who is now prepared to join forces with them.

And Saucy Jack has learned some new tricks while he’s been away.

The Characters

Inspector Walter Day is part of the Murder Squad and doing well. Claire is his wife and nine months pregnant. Fiona Kingsley, Dr Bernard Kinglsey‘s daughter, is helping out as temporary housekeeper…now that her father finally believes that the morgue is no place for a young lady. Arthur Day, a valet, had been Walter’s father and not a good father role model.

The Murder Squad…
…is new to Scotland Yard and led by Sir Edward Bradford. The sloppy yet quick-to-act Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith is Day’s partner and the man Fiona loves. Day’s fellow inspectors include the methodical Jimmy Tiffany and Michael Blacker, who is quick to make jokes. The retired Adrian March had been Day’s mentor (Jane is his wife). Augustus McKraken is another highly decorated former inspector. Both were key in the Ripper case. Sergeant Kett will coordinate things at the Yard. Constable Rupert Winthrop is assigned to protect Claire. Constable Bentley is one of the men sent out to Phoenix Street.

HM Prison Bridewell
The escapees include Griffin, Napper, Cinderhouse (The Yard, 1), Hoffman, and the “Harvest Man“. Warden Munt is in charge. Folger is the clerk. Mallory is the warden who died. Dr Bickford-Buckley is on night-duty at University College Hospital. (The skeleton in the corner is Bruce.)

Eunice Pye is a widow since her husband Giles died. She’s quite interested in why Mrs Michael left and Mr Michael, who will become Elizabeth, continues with his routine. The Anderson girl is quite rude; Miss Bonnie is the Andersons’ housekeeper.

The Kartsphanomen are…
…a society of men from all levels of society dedicated to meting out justice…with eye-for-an-eye punishment along the way. Members include Lusk and Aberline. Willie is the fireman.

Jack the Ripper is…
…also known as Saucy Jack, and his victims include Annie Chapman, Nichols, Stride, Eddoes, Tabram, and Mary Jane Kelly. Constable Pringle was one of Cinderhouse’s.

The Cover and Title

The cover hits you in the face with the orange background of Westminster Palace and London Bridge, birds flying overhead. An angled banner splits the top and bottom with the orange continuing but beneath the city of London in those ancient stonework tunnels, the back of a man in top hat and overcoat walking in with a bright torch. The banner is a deep, deep red creating a background for the embossed silver-outlined letters for the title that are filled in with horizontal lines of gold against that red background. An inner picot border of silver lines both edges of the banner. At the very top is an info blurb in cream with the author’s name below it in the same cream but outlined in silver. At the very bottom framed above and below with doubled silver lines with a fleur-de-lis on the left ends is the series information, also in cream.

The title refers to The Devil’s Workshop that has been created in those catacombs that lie beneath London.

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