The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian (Putnam, May 20th, 2014)-Note: No spoilers for this one, but may be some minor spoilers of the two previous novels(The Yard, The Black Country)–The Devil’s Workshop is another fantastic novel in Alex Grecian’s superb Scotland Yard Murder Squad series. HM Prison Bridewell has just suffered an unfortunate breach in the form of a runaway locomotive, setting loose a handful of brutal killers from their prison cells. The police are mobilized immediately to find the escaped killers, and Murder Squad Detectives Walter Day and Nevil Hammersmith are among that group. In addition, Adrian March, retired detective and mentor to Day is also called forth to participate in the manhunt. The trail soon leads March and Day into the underground catacombs of 1890s London, and what they discover there will change the entire nature of their investigation.
One thing that Alex Grecian is really good at is creating all of these little threads, dangling them in front of his readers, then bringing them together beautifully at the book’s conclusion. Thread is actually a pretty good metaphor for this book, come to think of it, because…well, you’ll see. Anyway, two of my favorite detectives, Day and Hammersmith, are hot on the trail of some of the nastiest killers that London has ever scene, and among them is a man that Day and Hammersmith only recently put into jail. And he knows where Day lives. And Day’s wife Claire is very pregnant and due to give birth any day now. You can see how they might have an even bigger problem on their capable hands, yes?
But wait! There’s more! If you’ve kept up with the series, you know that Adrian March was on the Jack the Ripper case and regrets more than anything that he never caught him. Well, Jack has turned up again, and he’s eager to continue where he left off, but his priorities have changed a bit, and he gets a chance to mete out some vengeance of his own. Speaking of vengeance… The Devil’s Workshop is not only a very clever thriller, but it’s an interesting study of the nature of justice, retribution, and how society handles imprisonment of its most evil of citizens. Jack is, of course, as charming as he’s always traditionally been portrayed, even as he’s rather gleefully doling out his unique brand of bloodsport. Also, Walter Day finds himself questioning just about everything in the wake of impending fatherhood. There are so many exciting, terrifying, dizzying things going on in this book at one time, and it’s a helluva read, but I don’t expect anything less from Alex Grecian. If you like your Victorian procedurals dished out with a heavy dose of horror-think the love child of Thomas Harris and CS Harris, but of course something uniquely belonging to Alex Grecian-you’re in for a treat. Also, if you’re new to the series, you shouldn’t have any trouble diving right into it with The Devil’s Workshop.