Monday, January 13, 2014

Review of "Mayhem" by Sarah Pinborough

"Mayhem" is a top notch mystery/horror novel. I was intrigued from the beginning.

The book is set in London. It goes back and forth in time but all around 1886-1889.

Someone is killing girls and dismembering them on the streets of London. This gets your attention right away. The story is told mostly by Dr. Thomas Bond who is the Medical Examiner for all the cases. But there are so many other characters in this book who play a big role.

There is Inspector Moore and especially Mr. Charles Harrington. There is Juliana and Elizabeth. And more.

The book starts out with a killing and a newspaper story about the killing. That is a great part of this book is with each killing there is what looks like an old fashioned newspaper article. It gives it a 1800's feel.

So we have Dr. Bond who is on the case of the murders. He suffers from anxiety and insomnia and takes up residence at the local opium dens for some much needed relaxation and sleep. He has not been able to sleep right since the murders started. But soon there will be another purpose for him visiting the opium dens.

What disturbed him most was not the frequency of the deaths but the nature. The dismemberment and mutilation of the body. It caused him horrible nightmares. He has the gift of seeing into the minds of violent men by their actions. He states that London is always crime ridden but the past few weeks have been even worse. Scotland Yard had even sent someone to investigate.

We also have other important players such as Aaron Kominski who will play a big role in the capture of the killer. But when we first meet him, he is a trembling mess of a man who is dirty and cannot speak very well. He speaks mostly Polish and his English is not good especially when he is nervous which is always. He dreams of fire and hate and is believed to have his grams "gift" as he sees visions. He even moved from where he was living because he told his mother his father was dead (they had no way
of knowing, he just did not come home) and that they should leave Kiev immediately. He told his mother something would happen and the whole town would blame the family especially him, so they needed to leave. He did not expect the horrors to follow him to London.

The narration in this book is very well done. The characters play out well. Dr. Bond is the best. He is just a broken man over the terror gripping London and he does not believe what the police or anyone says about a Jack the Ripper or another killer. He believes there is only one killer.

His trips to the opium den lead him to notice a man in a waxy long black coat who, if he did smoke opium, should not be on his feet looking around at the other patrons.
He also noticed this man at the inquests. He kept an eye out for him but was not sure how much he knew, if anything, or if he was involved. Or that he would find out this man will be his best source of information.

Dr. Bond has a close reputation with Charles Harrington who is a business man and friend and has a daughter who Dr. Bond is fond of but knows he is too old for.

The bodies pile up and the search continues. Dr. Bond starts to believe that if there is a Jack, he is a side effect of something more sinister.

Eventually after looking for a while, Dr. Bond finds the man in the waxy long black coat and follows him and thinks the man is not aware. However, once they reach his residence, which is a set of apartments, Thomas (Dr. Bond) comes up and The Priest is waiting. The Priest begins to tell Dr. Thomas Bond about the evil they are hunting. The Upir. Dr. Bond is hesitant to believe but as the story builds, he starts to see for himself that there is an evil presence attached to a human he knows. An
evil presence like no other. Dr. Bond listens to the whole story of the Upir and we find out how it came to London.

In the middle of the book, The Priest told Dr. Bond to not look at men but look behind men.

We read about how the Upir came to rest in London and what it needs to survive. You still are not completely sure who it's host is which makes this a great mystery. You say "It has to be this guy", then you change your mind because of another new fact. It was mind boggling.

The Upir is still attached to the host and you do not find out who that is until the very end of the book.

In the meantime Aaron, The Priest (he never is named) and Dr. Bond form a little circle that tries to take on the Upir. Obviously Dr. Bond cannot tell anyone on the police force or really anybody what he believes to be true so he has to count on a Priest who seems a little off and Araon who is very quiet and shy. Not to mention
the police already suspect Aaron and have called him in for questioning.

As the trio are trying to smoke out the Upir, more woman are murdered and dismembered.

In fact, Dr. Bond gets a glimpse into who he thinks is the host when one particular family dies suddenly one night.

The Priest knows the most but is patient because Dr. Bond does not want to rush in and be wrong. He is more of a reasonable man. So Dr. Bond continues to search and look for what he feels and knows for sure is the host.

I cannot say too much more without ruining the story for you. The writing was superb and understated. And the characters were very well formed. You knew a lot about them. The story itself is just terrifying. It is a real page turner. And again, you are not completely sure until the end who the host is.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes horror, thriller, mystery, and Jack the Ripper type stories. I wished there was more to the book and was sad that it ended. But it ended with no questions and I was very satisfied.