REVIEW: MURDER / AUTHOR: SARAH PINBOROUGH / PUBLISHER: JO FLETCHER BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
One of the problems with the steampunk genre is that it has become very difficult to simply find a good murder mystery set in the Victorian era without cogs and Zeppelins being involved on some level. Sarah Pinborough’s latest novel, Murder, thankfully lacks any sort of cog-foppery or high fantasy shenanigans and is instead a good old-fashioned tale of horrific crime and those who try and discover the culprits, all set during the time of Victoria’s reign.
Those expecting it to be a simple, true crime-style story will be disappointed. This is Sarah Pinborough, a writer who has quickly established herself as one of the most exciting spinners of twisted tales of terror in print today, and though there isn’t a whiff of steam about Murder, it does have the lightest touch of the supernatural about it, which handily keeps the reader on edge throughout.
A take on the infamous Jack the Ripper case, Murder begins with the characters picking up their lives from the events of Mayhem, the first book in the series. Having successfully foiled the source of the Ripper murders, the protagonists are doing their best to forget that anything too weird ever happened and move on with their lives. That is, up until the murders begin again, and old wounds, both physical and psychological, are torn open. Yet again, Dr Thomas Bond gathers up his friends to find out who is responsible for all this death and the novel is told mostly from his point of view with the occasional insight from the rest of the cast. We also get snippets of information from various newspaper and medical reports dotted around the book and these serve to foreshadow the narrative as well as drive it forward.
Pinborough pulls no punches here; the murders are gruesome and dark. Victorian England was not the nicest of places and the horrific inequality and brutal living conditions are underlined repeatedly throughout the tale. This refreshing and historically accurate honesty allows the author to be truly nasty with her narrative and tell a horrid yet gripping tale of blood and death. The succinct, efficient and yet multi-layered writing style works very well here; enough is left up to the imagination to make the reader devise their own horrors and yet the atrocities of the author’s own design are clear and unwavering. The book promises murder and delivers it in spades. Those looking for both visceral and psychological horror will enjoy this gore-soaked offering, but you are firmly advised to read Mayhem first as the two complement each other perfectly.