Following directly on from Mayhem, Sarah Pinborough’s Murder finds Victorian surgeon Thomas Bond in even murkier waters. Time has healed most of the mental wounds left by the Thames Torso murders, but the shadow of Jack the Ripper still lingers over London, and Dr Bond cannot shake the feeling that something still waits in the river.
When new evidence and old secrets prompt him to look into the events of the past, Dr Bond discovers that the evil force he thought he had destroyed is alive and well, and ready to wreak havoc.
Murder is more of a slow-burn than its predecessor, as Pinborough takes the time to establish how the intervening years have affected her protagonist.
Dr Bond has been able to mostly put the events of the first novel out of his mind and make his romantic interest in the now-widowed Juliana known, and it’s the slow but deliberate dismantling of the security that he’s built for himself that make up much of the novel’s first half.
We’re given a less-detailed class cross section of late-19th Century London here, with a good deal of the narrative given over to Juliana’s American paramour. That being said, there’s still plenty of horrifying crimes based on real cases and, as with Mayhem, apparent diversions from the main thrust of the plot are all leading somewhere.
Happiness isn’t meant to last in Murder, and the cosy familiarity of these domestic dramas is soon shattered by the visceral shocks of the second half as the bottom falls out of Bond’s world with grisly results.
Murder doesn’t quite have the bone-chilling atmosphere of Mayhem, but it’s looking in a slightly different direction. It’s a more personal story that pulls the reader into a compelling tale of madness and, indeed, murder. It’s grim, gruesome and gripping, and it’s tremendous fun.