I have always wanted to travel back to the Victorian era to see what it was like – what it smelled like, tasted like and sounded like.
After reading The Yard by Alex Grecian, I feel that I have at last realised a dream of mine. And whilst the dream was at time more like a nightmare – given the vivid imagery of murders not long after the infamous Ripper killings – it was a very realistic time travelling journey.
I walked along the streets of London paved with gaslights saw the passing Hansom cabs as modes of transport and walked to my destination of the imposing bleak building at the heart of the story: Scotland yard.
What I found particularly fascinating was the fact that I was the only person there from the future and so I could see how the process of DNA detections and CSI were still very much in its infancy. I watched and so wanted to try and help the police in their search for the killer but we were separated by two worlds – the literary against the real and the future against the past.
The Victorian London era made the story that bit more interesting and exciting. Although dark at moments, there were many chinks of human kindness which shone through particularly in the character of Kingsley the pathologist. Different attitudes of people back then and the shocking levels of social depravation really made the novel even more vivid.
According to the book, the murder squad of Scotland yard was set up due to the public losing trust in the police following Jack the Ripper and that fact that a policeman had been murdered. Times were changing and so was the nature of policing.
So although I like to visit places when reading books, London was not the main attraction in this book but the birth of forensic science was and how we coped without it and how we acted when it was discovered. The Yard focuses on fingerprints and how they were first discovered and put into practice in police work. There is general disdain for the practice except for a few forward thinking people and it was fascinating to read how something we take for granted today could be so vilified back then.
The book as a whole was a riveting, fast, hard-to-put-down mystery of London’s underbelly, depravity and trauma. I may not want to visit this side of London in the real world but my literary travels will see be back as soon as the follow up hits the shelves.