Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

There is a plethora of books about Jack the Ripper. Most deal with him, the Ripper himself. Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough not only features Jack the Ripper's deeds but also the lesser known Thames Torso Murders that took place at the same time. The Thames murders went on for a longer period of time and caused as much fear as the Ripper murders. In 1873 a portion of a woman's torso was found in the Thames River. Shortly thereafter more body parts were found in other areas of London. The police were tasked with reassembling the body.

Pinborough's book opens in November 1886 in Paris. A woman is murdered and her body dismembered and the pieces hidden. Fast forward to London in May 1887. Jack the Ripper is out and about but so is another killer. While the Ripper victims are found in alleys and streets, the other victims are found in pieces in the river. Two distinct types of murder victims are being found.

Dr. Bond is a surgeon who frequently helps out the London police. He, along with Inspector Morse and Dr. Charles Hebbert are looking into the Thames murders. Hebbert's daughter has become engaged to James Harrington.  James has recently returned from his "grand tour" of Europe during which he became deathly ill after drinking from a river in Poland. He has changed since he came back from his tour. Shortly after Harrington came back to London his parents died from an apparent food poisoning. James became sick as well and in fact seems to become sick at regular intervals.

Bond a restless soul has taken to frequenting the city's opium dens in order to relax enough to sleep. The opium makes him hallucinate - see things his rational conscious mind doesn't believe exist. While in the dens Bond encounters a mysterious man who appears to be looking for someone among the opium smokers. This man turns out to be a Jesuit priest on the hunt for the Upir. The Upir is a legendary demon who feeds off of humans. Could this really be what the Thames killer is?

Bond and the priest connect up with Aaron Kosminski, a Polish immigrant who "sees" things and has become a suspect in the Ripper killings. Together these three hunt for the Thames killer and the Upir.

This is an atmospheric mystery/thriller. Through the gloomy depressed streets of London's Whitechapel area to the London docks the story line doggedly tracks down the Thames killer. Tautly written with a creepy feel this book is well worth reading.

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