Have you entered the "Where Spirits Dwell" book giveaway? Don't forget!
by Sarah Pinsborough
In the year 1888, Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel and dominated London headlines, and today his crimes rank amongst the most notorious unsolved murders. Yet at the same period a second serial killer haunted the same neighborhoods, killing women and chopping them to pieces before tossing their body parts into the Thames. Largely forgotten today, the “Torso Killer” murderer was never found.
Dr. Thomas Bond, a police surgeon who investigated the remains of victims of both the Ripper and the Torso Killer, finds that he cannot sleep at night due to the stress of his job. He takes to visiting opium dens to find relief. He notices, after a while, that a Jesuit priest with a withered arm frequents many of these same dens, and he seems to be searching for someone. After talking to the priest, Bond realizes they are searching for the same thing: the Whitechapel killers. But the priest believes a supernatural force is involved, an ancient European evil called the Upir whose presence stirs up the cruelty of mens’ hearts. Find its host, the priest believes, and the madness of men like Jack the Ripper will be cooled. Bond is skeptical, but he’s willing to try anything to restore peace to London before his addiction to opium becomes unbreakable.
I was quite astonished to hear that there was another murderer active at the same time as Jack the Ripper. It seems mindboggling that these killings didn’t get more attention, because they were so much more gruesome than the Ripper ones. But then again, I suppose fishing body parts out of the Thames doesn’t have quite the same dramatic flair as fresh prostitute bodies, and since the victims often went unidentified it was harder to generate interest.
Dr. Bond is an intelligent man, content with his life as an old bachelor. He’s a wise choice for a narrator, since he’s able to be at the crime scenes and privy to the details of the police investigations. (Actually, he rather reminds me of the character Johnny Depp plays in that movie From Hell - a police investigator who dreams visions while under the influence of opium.) He’s not the greatest investigator; he hesitates and refuses to act when he begins to suspect that the Upir is someone close to him, and he has a bad habit of withholding useful information from others. But he tells a good story and keeps the reader engaged with the mystery at hand.
There is some overlap with the Jack the Ripper cases – as I said, Dr. Bond is the police surgeon – and Ripperologists will see many familiar names, like Frederick Abberline (police inspector) and Aaron Kominski (Ripper suspect) but the mystery ultimately heads off in a different direction, into the realm of the supernatural. It’s a very engrossing tale, rich in that gas-lit, Victorian London atmosphere, and I found it nearly impossible to put down.
4.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld
2012: Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer by Van Jensen & Dusty Higgins
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: News: Seriously Cool Pop-Up Book
2009: News: Edgar Allan Poe Postage Stamp + Discussion Question