Review ~ Mayhem

This book was provided to me by Jo Fletcher Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

Cover via Goodreads

A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them. (via Goodreads)

This novel stepped into a discussion that Eric and I have been having about Jack the Ripper and his place in history. Eric wrote about the place that technology has in the coverage of the case and I’ve been musing about how law enforcement regarded the events. Were Jack’s murders truly an abomination to them? Or was it entirely a matter of media hype? With Dr. Bond, a coroner, as a main character, I repeatedly asked myself, “Would this man really be shocked?”

Whether the answer is yes or no, Pinborough does a good job with scenes of horror. She provides tense, visceral prose. Unfortunately, those scenes are few and far between. The narrative skipped back and forth in time and shifted between Dr. Bond’s first person POV and several other characters’ third person POVs. This seemed to be a method of keeping the reader off balance and artificially controlling the flow of information. It felt gimmicky to me and not needed because Pinborough has a good style.

Around halfway through the book, when James Harrington is introduced I really wished that the story were written in a linear manner, à la Dracula. That’s when it occurred to me that this book has quite a few parallels with Dracula. Both are plague allegories with an evil being brought from the old world to the new. There’s a Harker-ish traveler, a Van Helsing-like priest,  an unbalanced Renfield with a strange connection to the evil they’re hunting, and Dr. Bond is very similar to Dr. Steward. The only thing missing is a strong Mina character. I had hopes for Juliana, but not much happens with her. That and the rather abrupt ending to the book left me wondering about the second book in this series, Murder. While I enjoyed Mayhem well enough, I can’t say that I’m interested in continuing.

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Publication date: January 14, 2014
Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction
Why did I choose to read this book? Interested in the genre.

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7 thoughts on “Review ~ Mayhem

  1. Hmm…that’s always frustrating when it seems an author doesn’t trust that a character or story line is enough on its own. Sorry that this one didn’t work for you!

  2. Perfectly said. I didn’t catch the Dracula parallel – it’s my favorite book so I’m not certain how I missed that one! I think I was so focused on the fact portions of the book. I really wish she would have stayed with that rather than introducing the demon type. That’s where she lost me. Ah, well. Like you said, I’m not at all interested in continuing the series.

    1. It wasn’t bad, really. It might be unfair of me, but I wanted a little more out of it. The Ripper aspect is in the background though. It’s much more about the Thames Torso Murders which happened around the same time.

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