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Mayhem Hardcover – January 14, 2014
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Praise for Mayhem
"Sarah Pinborough deftly trawls through the muck of Victorian London in Mayhem, a graphic tale about a series of murders contemporaneous to Jack the Ripper's crimes . . . English horror and fantasy writer Sarah Pinborough breaks new ground in "Mayhem," her 12th novel, by exploring several murders that occurred contemporaneously with the Ripper crimes . . . Although the news stories and a letter signed by Jack the Ripper, interspersed throughout the novel, lend authenticity to and place the murders in context, Mayhem's greater achievement is in its deft portrayal of the divergent social classes in Victorian London that gave rise to the Thames Torso Killer and the men who hunted him."—Paula L. Woods, The Los Angeles Times
“In this chilling exploration of madness and evil, Pinborough excels at summoning up the bleak spirit of Victorian London’s mean streets and those forced to fight for survival there.” — Publishers Weekly (starred)
"If you enjoy a true crime-novel combo, don’t pass on the newest work from British-born author Sarah Pinborough, who takes a cue from Dean Koontz in composing a new supernatural-whodunit-polyphonic thriller for those not of the faint of heart."—John Henry, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
“Masterfully . . . Mayhem is a beautifully rendered exploration of madness in all its forms. The author takes sleight of hand to new heights. She makes the mean streets of Victorian London all too real. It’s a demanding, moody horror story with a shocking twist.”—Irma Heldman, Open Letters Monthly
Praise for Sarah Pinborough
"Few writers blend mystery and the supernatural as well as Sarah Pinborough, but there are none who do it better. Quite, quite brilliant."—John Connolly
"Pinborough’s fiction moves at a breakneck pace. Once you start, you can’t stop." —Sarah Langan
"She rides the line between gritty realism and otherworldly weirdness without ever toppling over." —SFX
"Mayhem is a disturbingly engrossing Victorian horror with a standout, menacing villain. Never have I known a smile to be so sinister and rancid, but Pinborough’s prose prove the gesture to be something terrifyingly palpable. This genre-defying novel is a ravenous read and will have you as insatiable as the malicious mischief-maker that awaits you in its pages.”—BookPage
"a taut late Victorian crime thriller with a stunning Eastern European spin. The inclusion of world-wide nespaper coverage of the first known serial killers adds fascinating macabre shock and depth; mindful of the Son of Sam coverage. Readers will relish this tense twisting historical whodunit."—Harriet Klausner, Midwest Book Review
"Mayhem is a terrific piece of sustained writing, taking the tired streets of fictional Victorian London and reinvigorating them through the introduction of an ancient enemy. It’s well worth reading whether as historical true crime fiction or as a supernatural thriller."—David Marshall, Thinking About Books
About the Author
Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and young adult author. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. Her novel The Hidden is currently in development as the movie Cracked, and she has another original screenplay under option. She has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has a three-part TV series in development with World Productions. She was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has been short-listed three times for Best Novel. Her novella The Language of Dying was short-listed for the Shirley Jackson Award, and won the 2010 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.
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Quercus, Jan 14 2014, $24.95
In 1887, Londoners live in abject fear waiting for the next Jack the Ripper murder. Assisting the police on the violent deadly assaults drives Dr. Thomas Bond to increasingly using opium to help him temporarily forget the gruesome sight though he believes the nightmares will haunt him until he dies.
When a new female victim even more violently attacked than the previous poor souls is found, the city panics. However, Bond realizes this homicide is different as Ripper leaves the entire corpse for the police and locals to deal with; while this murderer left only the torso. Doubting Ripper changed his method and more victims with body parts deposited all around town including the construction site of Scotland Yard are found; Bond concludes a second more violent psycho dubbed the Thames Torso is doubling down on the horror gripping the beleaguered city.
Based on the real Thames Torso murders that horrified London during the Ripper period and using as the protagonist a genuine historical person to tell the tale Sarah Pinborough provides a taut late Victorian crime thriller with a stunning Eastern European spin. The inclusion of world-wide newspaper coverage of the first known serial killers adds fascinating macabre shock and depth; mindful of the Son of Sam coverage. Readers will relish this tense twisting historical whodunit.
The main characters are:
Dr.. Thomas Bond, a single middle-aged man, who is called in to help examine the victims' bodies. Bond has suffered all his life from periodic anxiety attacks which he currently treats with opium. During a visit to an opium den, he notices a Jesuit priest (no first/last name ever given) in a waxy coat with a withered arm who appears to be looking for something. Eventually, he enlists the priest's help in tracking down the killer.
Aaron Kosminski: a young man and former hairdresser, who has his grandmother's gift of "visions," and who due to various anxieties and phobias has not worked since moving with his family from Poland to London. He is also enlisted to help Bond and uses opium to enhance his visions. (Opium use is not glamorized - if there's a message in the novel about recreational drugs, it's that it's better to just say no, if someone offers you opium.)
James Harrington: a young man who has taken over his father's business and whose pretty young wife, Juliana, is expecting a baby. Harrington appears to have contacted some disease when on his Grand Tour, though he has periods where he's healthy. He also had an affair with Elizabeth Jackson, a young maid, who has now vanished.
Eventually, the priest, the doctor and the hairdresser realize that their perp may be a demon who has found a host in someone they know, and they attempt to solve the crime. Because the police are not having much luck with conventional methods, it looks like it is up to them to succeed if anyone can.
We also hear accounts from the various victims and people involved in the case. The novel jumps back and forth in time which can be confusing, and the perspectives are both first and third. The book's strength is its use of atmosphere and the nineteenth century London setting, in all its grime and crime, is vividly brought to life. It's well-written, but I was expecting a mystery with a more conventional format.
It is during one of his nightly trips to the seedier side of London that Dr. Bond encounters a mysterious priest who seems to be on his own search for something – or perhaps someone. At first the doctor rejects the priests theories about the Torso Killer as they are an affront to science and everything the doctor holds dear. It is only as time goes on and the body count continues to rise does Dr. Bond begin to wonder if perhaps the priest isn’t mistaken at all. And perhaps Dr. Bond knows the true identity of the Torso Killer.
Mayhem is a fascinating tale in that it is all based on real events. While I admit to being a fan of Victorian England and familiar with the Jack the Ripper killings, I had never heard of the Torso Killer. A bit of research showed me that they were indeed a real person and their killings occurred around the same time as Jack the Ripper. Further research showed me that characters in the novel (Dr. Bond, Inspector Moore, etc.) were also real people and were all involved with the Jack the Ripper and the Torso Killer cases. A bit of dramatic license was used, especially in regards to the culprit and how they were involved, but the majority of the story is taken from actual events and actual police reports.
Reviews on Amazon are mixed but honestly, I ripped through this book (pun intended). Dramatic and tense, I found it a real nail biter up to the end. At times quite gruesome it is not for the faint of heart. Those however who love a good horror should definitely pick this one up.