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
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.


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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About Kimberly

Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. She’s a self-professed Whovian, as well as a Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes junkie, She enjoys sharing books, tips, recipes and hosting the Sunday Post. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat…Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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67 Responses to “Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough”

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

  1. 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.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was quite good and cleverly weaved fact and fiction 🙂

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

    kindlemom1 recently posted: Review: Perfect Lies by Kiersten White
    • kimbacaffeinate

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

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

    • 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

      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!

  4. 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! 😉

    Melissa (Books and Things) recently posted: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
    • 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.

  5. 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.

    Bella's Shelf recently posted: Cover Reveal: Model Position by Kitsy Clare
    • 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!

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

  6. Andrea

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

    • kimbacaffeinate

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

  7. 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 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

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