The Harvest Man (The Murder Squad)
By Alex Grecian
Rating: 5/5 Stairs
For those unfamiliar with this series, we are transported back in time to 1890, London. Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad has their hands full; Jack the Ripper may have disappeared into thin air, but the dawn of the random serial killer has now arrived. The Harvest Man is the fourth in this series. Make no mistake, you can read it without having read the previous three books – I had only read the first book, The Yard. Do be warned that if you are a serial reader like me, this book contains some major spoilers from book three. (I love this series so much I will go back and read it anyway.)
The Murder Squad series features a terrific cast of regular characters. Detective Inspector Walter Day is our main character, the center of this large cast. While the mysteries are the great piece of the books, the personal lives of the characters play just as an important role. Walter Day is a much different character in this book than when I last saw him in The Yard. His encounter with the Ripper (The Devil’s Workshop) has left him both physically and mentally scarred, relying on both his cane and his flask of brandy to get him through each day.
There are three investigative subplots occurring in The Harvest Man:
- The first (and main plot) is the manhunt Scotland Yard has for the serial killer known as the Harvest Man.
- The second is a personal search being conducted by Detective Inspector Day and ex-Sergeant Hammersmith for Jack the Ripper, who they have learned from the previous novel is still out there and operational (although with a new motive this time around).
- The third is the mystery of several Ripper-like murders that have turned up. Are they the work of Jack himself or merely a copy-cat?
As far as the killer the Harvest Man goes, I must say there were some difficult passages to read. The Harvest Man stalks his victims, waits until they are sleeping, and then ties them up and slowly cuts off pieces of their faces while they are still alive. Some chapters were seriously disturbing. The other two plots flow in and out nicely around the hunt for the Harvest Man.
What I love about these books is the setting. 1890, Scotland Yard. No cars. No technology. Sometimes things are missed. Dr. Kingsley has set up the first forensics lab, complete with a morgue (see The Yard), and his “strange” investigative methods continue here. (I say that in quotes because he is really pioneering modern detective techniques, but has difficulty gaining acceptance among some of the Scotland Yard detectives.) Detectives in the Yard are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The people of London are still terrified that the Ripper may be lurking around any corner, and those inspired by the Ripper are making things even worse. Many don’t trust the police, making their job that much more difficult.
Mr. Grecian had a terrific buildup going throughout the novel. By the time I got to the last 100 pages, things were moving fast and I knew I needed to just sit down and finish. (I even told that to my family – please understand, but I need you to leave me alone for a bit so I can just sit down and read with no interruptions.) It was a nail-biting, edge-of-my-seat ride to the last page. The ending was fantastic – but it just leaves you wanting more.
When does that next book come out?
Thanks to First to Read for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.