Friday, May 24, 2013

The Black Country by Alex Grecian

First Line: It was an unusual egg.

The little girl who discovers a human eyeball in a bird's nest sparks fear in a small mining village in the black country of the English Midlands due in no small part to the fact that three members of a prominent family have disappeared. The local constable knows that he's in over his head, so he sends for help to Scotland Yard's new Murder Squad. Inspector Walter Day, Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith, and Dr. Bernard Kingsley have two days to solve the case, but they have no earthly clue what they're getting themselves into. Everyone has a secret in this tiny community, and most of the villagers' lives seem to be subsumed by superstition.

Alex Grecian's The Yard was one of the few books I purchased during my recent trip to the UK, and when I'd read it and turned the last page, all I could say was "Wow!" I'm thrilled to say that The Black Country has now firmly placed this author on my Must Buy list.

Grecian has a very visual style of writing that makes me feel as though I'm right in the thick of things. His setting of a small mining village that's virtually cut off from the rest of the world adds the perfect Gothic atmosphere-- especially since the mine has tunneled underneath most of the buildings, and the town has been slowly sinking into the shafts for years.

Taking these three out of London gives them a chance to bond and form a relationship away from all the other characters-- in particular Day and Hammersmith-- and although I did miss some of the cast from The Yard, this element worked very well. The villagers add just the right touch of helpfulness and obstinacy and are brilliant at showing how people's histories intertwine in such a remote place. In fact their closely woven lives add all sorts of complications to the detectives' investigation.

My mother once told me that she believed I must have been a miner in a previous life (one that died in a cave-in) because I refuse to go underground. If you see me at someplace like Carlsbad Caverns, rest assured that I'll be camped out in the parking lot. With my fanatical passion for these Murder Squad books, and with a character like Nevil Hammersmith who literally grew up in a coal mine, I think I shall have to resign myself to having the heebie jeebies when I read parts of these books because they do go down into the earth from time to time. In this case, however, these sections heighten the suspense and sense of danger... a delicious way of scaring myself, I suppose you would say.

Creepy atmosphere, wonderful characters, a convoluted mystery, all wrapped up in the Victorian Era's conflict between science and superstition. What a marvelous reading experience Alex Grecian has created! Do I recommend his Murder Squad series? You bet I do!

The Black Country by Alex Grecian
ISBN: 9780399159336
G.P. Putnam's Sons © 2013
Hardcover, 400 pages

Historical Mystery, Police Procedural, #2 Murder Squad
Rating: A
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program


  1. Very interesting and a book I'll have to think about as my TBR Mt. Fuji is ridiculous.

    About your fear of going underground, did you ever read Nevada Barr's Blind Descent; Anna Pigeon has a lot of fears in this book, yet I found it a fascinating read.

    Glad you found an author you like in this series.

    1. Only Mt. Fuji? No need to worry until it reaches the height of Everest, Kathy! ;-)

      I was talking about Blind Descent with someone not too long ago. It remains one of my favorite Anna Pigeon books-- even though I felt each and every millimeter that Anna descended into those caves!

  2. I will be your Murder Squad buddy, tee hee. I loved his first novel and this second one is proving to be just as good (I'm about half through right now). This is one series I will continue to read, which is odd, because I don't normally go in for historical mysteries. There's just something about the late Victorian era, though. I believe it is because, as you say, they were somewhere between superstition and science.

    1. At first I thought it was odd when you said how much you liked the books on Twitter because I remembered that you aren't all that crazy about historical mysteries. That you love them shows just how good they are! :-)


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