by Sarah Pinborough
Series: Mayhem #1
Genres: Historical, Horror
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“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
There is another cover out there for this series and I had to share because it is gorgeous.