Book Two in The Murder Squad series by Alex Grecian, The Black Country is the sequel to The Yard which I reviewed for Cannonball Read 4. As a refresher the books are set in 1890 and focus on Inspector Day of Scotland Yard, a member of the newly founded Murder Squad. The Black Country picks up a few months later with Day, Sergeant Hammersmith, and Dr. Kingsley being summoned to Blackhampton in the Midlands where three members of a family are missing and the local constable fears they are dead after an eye is discovered in a tree.
In The Yard I complained that there were perhaps one to many plots, one too many characters and one too many locations. It seems that Mr. Grecian heralded this critique and there are fewer dead bodies, fewer possible suspects, and only a handful of locations. While this may seem to be too much still to some readers, it was a much more crisply paced narrative than the previous outing, which also helped to keep reading this novel from feeling like a chore.
There are two main plot lines to be concerned with, the missing Price family members and the mystery of Mr. Campbell and the pursuit of a character only known as ‘The American’ or Grey Eyes. Day and Hammersmith are focused on discovering the mystery of the Price family and are constantly foiled by townsfolk who are preoccupied by superstition and distrust of outsiders.
I have seen complaints that this book is over plotted in comparison to The Yard and I’m wondering if they read the same two books I did. I think this second murder squad book is an improvement on the first, with the following complaints: 1 – Hammersmith doesn’t get to shine the same way he did in The Yard and both he and his fellow investigators do MUCH less scientific investigating than they did in the first and 2 – the timeline of Grey Eyes and Campbell is simply RIDICULOUS. That said, read these if you like historical mystery.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.