My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I expected to love The Yard as I love historical mysteries and sadly I just didn't. I liked it but not loved it. I think it tried to do a little too much as a first novel in a series. You're bombarded with characters and while I had no trouble following all the different characters and different points of view, I also felt I didn't get to know anyone well. The three characters we're obviously suppose to bond with are Dr. Kingsley, the doctor who appointed himself (free of charge) as the forensic examiner for the titular yard. He is the most progressive of the group, up on all the forensics that would have been available in the 1880s (i.e. not much but he does push for fingerprint analysis even though some detectives like Blacker, don't believe it can be real or useful); Detective Day who is brand new to the force and just happened to be the first man on scene for a murder that turns out much bigger than expected and not everyone is okay with him being the detective in charge. He's even new to London, coming from Devon; and Hammersmith a Welshman who fled the coalmines and is a London Constable.
Honestly I might have been even more interested in this story if it had been in Wales or Devon since Victorian London is so over done but to be fair, London is so interesting its practically another character.
Day finds himself facing opposition from other detectives when he's officially assigned to the man in the trunk case, especially considering the fact that the victim is another “bluebottle” Detective Little. He's backed by the brand new chief and a detective Blacker who has a sense of humor (unlike the old fashioned and self important Detective Tiffany). Little has been stabbed many times and of course the specter of “Saucy Jack” (the Ripper) looms over the crime especially since much of London has lost faith in their police. There are two other cases of murder where men have been shaved and their throats cut that Blacker thinks is connected to this but Day isn't sure.
As for Hammersmith, he's led to another crime by a burglar and finds a young boy dead, jammed in a chimney. He's told to ignore it by Tiffany as the climbers employed by chimney sweeps are often found dead like this and no one knows who the kids even belong to, if they belonged to anyone.
Layered over this is, is the point of view of the murderer who actually is killing to keep his secret, that he's stealing boys to replace his son (this isn't a spoiler, you pretty much know who the killer is early on and the tension comes from the fact he's connected to the police department tangentially and they are totally unaware). Also there is the point of view of Day's wife, Hammersmith's roommate, constable Pringle and two prostitutes, one of whom was an escaped victim of Jack's (plus a few more minor points of view).
So yes, it is very convoluted and occasionally overly long. The reason I assumed Day, Kingsley and Hammersmith are the go-to characters is they have the lion's share of pages and each had an 'interlude' showing how their past brought them to where they are now.
I did like it and I'd probably read more but in the end I didn't feel like I really got to know any of them particularly well yet.
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