Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mayhem: A Victorian Murder Mystery



Mayhem
Author Sarah Pinborough
Category: Mystery, Horror, Historical, Paranormal
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In Mayhem Pinborough turns her attention to one of the most baffling and notorious crime sprees in Victorian times. Already frustrated in their attempts to capture serial murderer Jack the Ripper, the detectives of Scotland Yard are suddenly confronted with a new monster, dubbed the Torso Killer for his habit of leaving behind neatly wrapped parcels of his victims’ body parts, minus the heads. With the terrible increase in mutilated corpses to examine, the highly regarded police surgeon Dr. Thomas Bond has lost the ability to sleep. True, a growing dependency on opium affords him some solace in his loneliest and most desperate hours, but he also fears the grip of the drug. During Dr. Bond’s nightly tours of London’s underbelly in search of pharmaceutical respite from the horrors that plague him by day, he encounters a mysterious Jesuit priest scouring the opium dens himself, clearly in search of someone—or something. The doctor at first rejects the strange priest’s unnatural theories about the Torso Killer as an affront to scientific thought. But over time Dr. Bond’s opium-addled mind begins to crumble under the growing impression that there might be some awful truth to the Jesuit’s ideas. 

Review: What a strange little ride you will go on in this book. It's interesting how Pinborough uses the well-known murderer, Jack the Ripper, as a sub-theme. Similar to how he stalked the streets of London, in this tale, his actions shadow the main plot, running along side, beneath and slipping in and out of another infamous killer plaguing the seedy underworld of London.

Thematically, Pinborough makes use of several elements, including the polluted river, over-flowing sewers contaminating the city, pollution in general, tides, flow of water, migration, superstition and religion. The story becomes much more elegant and complex when taking such topics into consideration. The shadow play is fascinating and adds to the tension of various scenes. What makes the story unique is how Pinborough incorporates the historical with the fantastical paranormal genre. I imagine some readers of the first genre (historical) might not be open or ready to go on this journey. However, the mash-up is creative and imaginative.

Mayhem examines good and evil on two parallel levels. One by man, the other by something powerful that manipulates man. Upon deeper contemplation, isn't this always the general struggle we confront when something heinous occurs? How often do we question how mankind could do such a thing? Or is something greater imposing its will upon us? Possession and manipulation are always a possible justification even when reason tells us otherwise.

Mayhem would be outstanding for book clubs and should prompt some engaging discussions.

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* ARC provided by Jo Fletcher Books courtesy of Amazon Vine

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