Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

January 20th, 2014 Kimberly Review 67 Comments

20th Jan
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
by Sarah Pinborough
Series: Mayhem #1
Genres: Historical, Horror
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

“A compulsively readable story that starts as a conventional murder mystery and morphs, by degrees, into a horrifying supernatural thriller,” The Guardian said of Mayhem.   A virtuoso fantasy writer, Sarah Pinborough has won numerous awards including the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. 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.  As the police struggle to capture two serial killers, the troubled forensics expert begins to suspect that he may actually know the Torso Killer personally. If he is right, Dr. Bond will need all the strength he can muster to save his small circle of loved ones from falling victim to the bloody depravities of this twisted creature.From the Hardcover edition.

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough takes us to the streets of London’s East end during the period of Jack the Ripper and exposes a darker killer known as the “torso killer” Steeped in horror with a paranormal twist this was a riveting tale. I was excited to crack this open, call me a freak but I love crime thrillers dealing with serial killers.  Mini review: dark, scary and captivating.

Part investigation, part paranormal and utterly fascinating we meet key investigators and Dr. Bond as we hunt for the “torso killer” We travel the streets of Whitechapel and visit the opium dens as Dr. Bond looks for answers. The tale had a disturbingly realistic vibe that made even the paranormal elements feel frightfully real.

The tale is shared with us from multiple PoV’s including those of the killer and victims. Dr. Bond is a troubled soul who suffers bouts of insomnia, in part due to his examinations of the killer’s victims. Having examined victims of Jack the Ripper, his observations of this second group of victims terrifies him. He is very observant, and notices two men in his nightly travels. One is an unkempt barber named Aaron Kaminski, whom the police suspect and the other a Jesuit priest. Both of these characters added to the suspense and gave Pinborough’s story depth and believability.

Mayhem while dark is not overly gory. Yes, we get details of the bodies and imagery of what happens to these poor woman but Pinborough uses the victim’s voice to create suspense, and fear. She allows the reader to see all aspects of the case unfold. We are privy to newspaper clippings, letters, police reports, autopsy notes and Dr. Bond’s thoughts. One of the most interesting threads was from the killer himself. The imagery brought the city and its people to life. I felt at times as if I were walking alongside Dr. Bond and felt the urge to look over my shoulder. Pinborough weaved real people and events creating a macabre tale. The supernatural elements especially that of the Upir created a dark atmospheric tale that had me completely enthralled.

Fans of crime thrillers and horror will enjoy Mayhem. Steeped in history and wrapped in lore I easily consumed this and will definitely read more of Pinborough’s brand of mystery, horror and suspense.

Four cups of coffee out of five
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star


There is another cover out there for this series and I had to share because it is gorgeous.


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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

67 Responses to “Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough”

  1. Michelle

    What great covers! This definitely sounds like something I’d enjoy–thanks for bringing it to my attention! 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is dark, and suspenseful but the gore is surprising low

  2. Michele

    Hold me, Kimba… that cover scares me! But goodness, do I want to read this one. I love that it doesn’t get too gory, too. I may have to sleep with the light on, but I’m adding it to my TBR. Awesome review, my friend!

  3. Lauren

    Wow that cover is positively creepy! I’m glad to this wasn’t too gory, but stil atmospheric. I love murder mysteries, and the Ripper time period, even if this is a different murderer, is so fascinating. I’ll have to give this a read! Wonderful review 🙂

  4. Lindy

    This sounds like such an intriguing story. I love that the author gives the killer, as well as the victims a voice. I’ve always been fascinated by how the criminal mind works, and the whole process of forensics and detective work. Excellent Review Kim! You certainly have my curiosity piqued!

  5. Lily B

    Adding the multiple pOV of killer and victim does sound like it adds to the creepy scary aspect of the book. The cover is pretty freaky but cool looking!

  6. sherry fundin

    Wow. I am loving the sound of this one. I love murder stories, add some supernatural and that intrigues me even more. I am not familiar with the author, but will be checking her out.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was a good one Sherry. Well paced and it draws you right in.

  7. Michelle

    This sounds like something I would love. I love dark mysteries/thrillers and it set in a time period where things are more ‘fun’ to figure out. I’ll have to keep this one in mind. Great review Kimba!

  8. Andrea

    That cover! This seems a little darker than I tend to read. I’m glad you enjoyed Mayhem, Kimberly!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      hehehe..I love getting inside the killer’s head no matter how twisted..bwahaha!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It was well crafted and felt fresh..enjoy I look forward to your thoughts!

  9. braine

    The first time I saw this book I knew I want to read it
    The cover art is gorgeous and the story is right up my alley!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This wasn’t leave a light on scary, but it was creeptastic!

  10. Ginny

    This one would probably give me nightmares but I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 The second cover is great!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      LOL, yeah I would not want to be his victim, or walk London streets at night..hehe

  11. Candace

    I agree, that second cover is gorgeous! If it wasn’t for the scary, which might be too much for me, especially if from the victims POV, this would be something I would likely enjoy. But it definitely sounds a bit too ‘horror’ for me. Glad you enjoyed!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      If you can watch Criminal Minds, or detective shows I think you will be ok.

      • Candace

        I’m pathetic, Criminal Minds and all those shows scare the crap out of me! I do better with reading that kind of stuff though, so it’s possible it wouldn’t be too scary for me.

  12. Heidi

    I read another great review for this last week. I am fascinated by Jack the Ripper so I would like this. I do prefer the second cover, though as the first is very sinister.

  13. Bella's Shelf

    WHHHOOOOOOAAAAHHH!!! I am finding it mighty hard to not buy new review books for 2014 after reading reviews like this! So, my caveat to my self imposed rule is this: it is not for review, but for pleasure. It may be reviewed. Maybe not. Books for pleasure are ok to buy.
    I love stories that take place during the jack the Ripper era in London. They are always so spooky, gruesome, mysterious, so intense.
    I am so excited. Plus I simply ADORED the 2nd cover more.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Books for pleasure should be the way you approach all books review or personal Fran. I only take on books that speak to me and 90% of the time I end up very happy. I do think your work around for not adding new books to the TBR pile is pretty darn clever..we addicts are good at that..bwahahaha!

  14. Melissa (Books and Things)

    Darn you! Stop finding books you know I will enjoy. I don’t often pick these up because I always worry about them being too gory but since you said the victim’s voice creates the tension, I’m all good! 🙂 So going to have to add this one to the wishlist. If I get buried in the wl, I’m blaming you! 😉

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I read this in a few hours it is the type you get swept up in..and lord I will try to read something awful…ok.

  15. Nick

    I most definitely prefer that 2nd cover. The first one is just too strange and creepy.
    This sounds wonderful, Kim. I love stories told in the killer’s POV. It can get so intense!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Oh yes Nick I think you would like all the little tid-bits and killer’s pov as well as some of the victims..eek gads!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Agreed, when I first got the request that was the cover I saw on Amazon and it screamed read me, then the synopsis had me saying yes 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I watch the reruns late night and love them too Pamela. Yep serial killers fascinate me.

  16. kindlemom1

    I know it is weird but I really do too, which is why I have always been fascinated with the Ripper, especially because of all the speculation about who he really was and what happened to him.

    This sounds like a great one set during that same time. I love the creepy cover!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      the cool part..there really was a torso killer at the time of Jack the Ripper.

  17. Liz

    This sounds like its on the borderline of what I might read. But your review really sells it, for sure. I love how excited you are about it. I am totally going to get a sample from Amazon and check it out. Really great review, Kimberly!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I think you would be ok with this since it is more like what you might see on tv with respect to the crimes, more suspense and creepiness then gore. Not like Troop at all

      • Liz

        LOL I don’t know what it was about that one, the slime and bloating and more slime… Usually I’m attracted to gore!!! Wait, that didn’t sound right…. *sigh* I’ll check this one out!

  18. Jenea

    Wow, what a fantastically creepy cover! Love it! I like the other cover too. Pov’s from the victims and the killer sounds like an interesting read for sure. Wonderful review.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was quite good and cleverly weaved fact and fiction 🙂

  19. Jenny

    Wow. What a beautifully horrifying cover this book has! I think it’s so creepy but so pretty as well. The second cover you posted is stunning too:) I’m so glad you mentioned the gore factor Kim, I was worried this one might have a bit too much blood in it for me, but that is obviously not the case. I’m definitely intrigued by this one and think my mother in law and sister in law would be as well, so I can’t wait to recommend it to them!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yeah, I mean we know what happens but it wasn’t all CSI gross it was instead suspenseful and creepy.

  20. Mary

    I love that second cover! Not sure this is a book for me; it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. Though, that’s probably why I *should* pick it up.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This is based in part on actual events so it was deliciously creepy and yes I really like the second cover too 🙂

  21. Christy

    The way the story unfolds sounds really interesting, I like that. Both cover are great, but give slightly different vibes. First one feels more horror, and the 2nd feels more historical.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was good Christy, suspenseful and had a real crime feel to it since it is based in part on actual events.