A new killer is stalking the streets of London's East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him 'the Torso Killer', this murderer's work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper's Whitechapel crimes. The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames - and the heads are missing....
©2013 Sarah Pinborough (P)2013 W F Howes Ltd
"Pinborough really knows how to drag the reader into her books." (Simon Kernick, bestselling author of Relentless)
"This is deliciously inventive stuff, delivered with the narrative nous and sense of atmosphere that lifts Mayhem above the raft of many similar novels." (Crime Time)
This was the first time I've 'read' anything by Sarah Pinborough or heard Steven Crossley read and I will be looking out for both of them again - a great combination of gripping story and excellent narration.
I'm not normally one to write a review, but I have to say, I was just blown away by the combination of Sarah Pinborough's clever spin on the Ripper folklore and Steven Crossley's spot on narration. Seriously, if you like a story full of murder and mayhem and a little bit of the supernatural, do yourself a favor and read and/or listen to this one.
"A Parallel Ripper"
After reading other reviews I approached this book with interest but low expectations. The book began well and grew more interesting the more I listened.
As often as I've read books written set in this time and place I was pleased to find the author set the mood and events with a fresh eye. She skillfully sidesteps a host of clichés. The characters are complex and interesting. The protagonist set with all manner of conflicts. Yes, well done. It is an excellent read/listen. I will listen/read the sequel to this book and other books by this author.
"A Supernatural Mystery"
If you like stories about the supernatural you will love this book, if you think you are getting a mystery story set in 19th Century with Jack the Ripper thrown in - you will be very disappointed. The book focuses on another set of real murders of the same period: The Thames Torso Murders, also called the Embankment murders. These murders, however, were overshadowed by Jack the Ripper and have never really entered into stories about the period as Jack the Ripper did, like those of Jack the Ripper they were never solved.
The Author uses real people from the period, chiefly Dr. Thomas Bond, who was the police surgeon at the time. He is the main character in the book. While Dr. Bond does give some description of the Ripper Murders and the Ripper victims, his real focus is on the Torso Murders.
The Torso murders took place between 1887-1889. Torsos of young women were washing up along the Thames embankment. The bodies were headless and their limbs were hacked off. The limbs were found separately packaged, also washing up along the Thames. These murders were never solved, and since the heads were missing, the victims were never identified.
This sounds like the start of a really good book - but alas it is not, at least for me. Yes it is very atmospheric in describing the London of the period. But I am not a fan of the supernatural and the author attributes the Torso murders to a man who has been "taken over" by a supernatural being. So a lot of the book is consumed not with the mystery, but of finding the individual who was taken over by this supernatural being and when did it happen.
The writing style does not lend itself to a smooth, flowing story. The author uses several different characters to tell the story, although Thomas Bond is the main figure. The chapters in the book alternate between the point of view of different characters -- some written in the first person, other in the third person, and chapters which are newspapers accounts of the crimes. Also the book does not flow chronologically - but tends to skip around between 1887 and 1889, depending on the POV of the character in the chapter. The listener will need to pay close attention to the chapter titles in order to follow this book, as the date is always given as part of the chapter heading.
The Narration is excellent and helps carry the reader along through the story. However, the narrator cannot overcome the long periods of boredom as we explore a character’s thoughts and internal musings. Again if you like supernatural/fantasy mysteries you will love this book. I did not.
"Doesn't make me want to start reading this genre"
This is a dark, grim, paranormal, mystery taking place in London during the late 19th century. consciously parallels Jack the Ripper series of murders as if demonic forces are at work.
As a period piece it works well showing how police investigations worked back then and understand why Jack the Ripper was hard to catch.
However, I have issue with the structure or narrative of the story. Starts off as a mystery but reveals the villain before you have any real chance of guessing. The whole story is slow and drawn out which makes the sudden ending feel anti-climatic. A lot of side questions were left unanswered and not in a prepare for sequel kind of way.
I don't normally read paranormal or horror. This book does not make me want to start.
As a side note: The main character is named Dr. Bond? Seriously, Every time the name is mentioned I was taken out of the story. Kept waiting for him to say "The name's Bond, Dr. Bond.
"Stick with it"
Glad I stuck with this one through the slow but necessary setup. Pinborough has added a supernatural twist to the well-travelled trail of the Ripper murders (actually the lesser-known concurrent "Torso Murders" which also took place near and around Whitechapel). She does a nice job of setting us up with a reliable, skeptical witness/protagonist who resists the spooky truth, bringing to mind the best of Bram Stoker and Steven King. Steven Crossley does a fine job narrating.. Good enough to get me to check out the sequel.
"beware the evil spirit"
This a good story, well written and well narrated. The only drawback, greater for some, is the prominent role of an evil spirit inhabiting the body of a man. As far as evil spirits go, it's not over done. If you don't mind, or indeed, if you like, some fantasy in your books, buy it.
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