There is no respite in Grecian’s latest novel in the series inspired by the murderous escapades of Jack the Ripper, Detective Inspector Walter Day of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith in relentless pursuit even after it nearly cost them their lives. In the early days of forensic criminal investigation, both have proved avid students of the new ways of assessing important evidence in a burgeoning field. But since their last investigation, Day has been assigned to a desk job, hampered by a serious injury to his leg that requires the assistance of a cane for walking. Hammersmith
is scarred by the cross-hatching of stitches on his chest from the Ripper’s blade and no longer with the department.
Retired officer Augustus McKraken stands guard indefinitely at Day’s home, Walter and Claire now the proud parents of twin girls.
The family’s affairs have been assumed by Claire’s visiting parents, who have taken the liberty of hiring a staff of helpers (basically rendering Day ineffective in his own home, the antipathy of Claire’s parents not lost on him). Day takes refuge in the flask he carries at hand, tolerating constant pain, the quest for the Ripper not forgotten, just delayed. When Dr. Bernard Kingsley is brought to a new murder site--the work of yet another monster at large in 1880s London--he is able to confirm that this gruesome scene is the work of “the Harvest Man,” named for a spider that secrets itself in attics. The killer creeps down from the attic when all are asleep, immobilizes his victims, and carefully slices off their faces in a ritual only he understands.
In creating The Harvest Man, Grecian continues the saga of Day and Hammersmith’s determined search for the wily Ripper who has made sport of them, taunting each with miscues and diversions, leading them into a clever maze where Day is the ultimate prize--though Hammersmith’s demise would not be amiss. And while Walter is drawn deeper into the Harvest Man’s case for his expertise in such situations, Jack the Ripper frolics in the background, setting new traps for the men obsessed with his capture, using the focus on the Harvest Man as a mask for his nefarious activities. The result is a harrowing tale of threat and jeopardy, innocent victims set upon by night, unaware of the killer lurking in the attic, an ongoing threat to Day and his family by the Ripper and the recent slayings of a vigilante group pursuing the Ripper who call themselves the Karstphanomen. While Day is sidelined by the family massacres now occurring in the city, Nevil continues his search for Jack, learning that the fractious madman has perhaps inspired a gifted copycat.
Beyond the grisly details of the Harvest Man’s impromptu surgeries and Jack’s deadly taunts, Grecian weaves the personal elements into the novel that create the emotional context of the series, his characters both believable and realistic: the patient Claire, who loves her husband and understands his desire to reclaim the intimacy of their household (which grows yet again with the addition of two boys orphaned by the Harvest Man); the meddling but well-meaning in-laws, who fear Walter cannot care for their daughter and granddaughters; Dr. Kingsley’s daughter, Fiona, a talented artist who harbors feelings for an oblivious Nevil; and Henry Mayhew, a simple giant of a man who attends Kingsley but is tricked by Jack into a terrible deed. The innocence of children creates a vivid contrast to the evil sewn by the Harvest Man and the Ripper, each chapter prefaced with poems from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” Hammersmith and Day
are the pawns of the infamous Scamp, who leads them on a chase that will eventually prove fatal for either the pursuers or the madman. Grecian isn’t nearly finished.