The first time I saw the book in the flesh was on a prominent display at Waterstones in Cambridge, England. I picked it up, looked it over... and I couldn't put it down. It came home with me, and I read it shortly thereafter. The Yard is now one of my Best Reads of 2013.
By the time I heard that the author was going to appear at The Poisoned Pen, I was reading his second book in the series, The Black Country, and I knew nothing short of the direst emergency could keep me away that night!
"The Black Country is my Hound of the Baskervilles."
Author Alex Grecian first began by giving us a basic introduction to his Murder Squad series. The Yard begins in 1889, shortly after Jack the Ripper went on his rampage and then disappeared. The book shows how the world's most famous serial killer changed the city, police work, and how ordinary citizens began viewing law enforcement with real suspicion.
The Black Country takes place six months later when three members of a family disappear from a village up in the Midlands and a human eyeball is found in a bird's nest. The local constable knows that he's in over his head and asks Scotland Yard for help. Detective Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith are put on a train and given two days to solve the case.
"The Black Country is my Hound of the Baskervilles," said Alex. "I wanted to give Day and Hammersmith the opportunity to bond and form a relationship away from London and the other characters." He then went on to mention two elements he used to add to the Gothic creepiness of the book: the wicker man and Raw Head and Bloody Bones. A rhyme originating in Yorkshire and Lancashire was often used to scare children into good behavior:
- Rawhead and Bloody Bones
- Steals naughty children from their homes,
- Takes them to his dirty den,
- And they are never seen again.