This is the first book I’ve read by Alex Grecian, though it is the fifth in the series that began with The Yard. [I tried to read The Harvest Man (#4) but I just could not get into it.]
The novel begins with the escape of a nameless man and for a few chapters the reader isn’t sure if this outbreak is a good thing or not. His behavior and thinking are base and savage, intent merely on survival.
At the same time, Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad is slowly recovering from the loss of one of their officers — presumably to Jack the Ripper. In Grecian’s London, the Ripper is still on the loose and still committing crimes, though he seems to have become much more nuanced in his hunt. He likes to toy with his potential victim, uses rudimentary hypnotism techniques and tortures from a distance.
Multiple narrative points of view — the unidentified man, the police squad, the wife of the missing detective, a bizarre murder team, a corrupt politician — swirl around one another until they meet at a dizzying scene in a department store. Plumm’s is modeled after Selfridge’s or Simpson’s. It’s a dazzling marvel of modernity, full of high-class wares, gilt fixtures and shoppers who mean to be seen.
He was on the main floor of the department store, all shining wood and glass and a black spiral staircase that ran up through the center of the room to the gallery, where he and Esther had sipped their tea and eaten their seedcakes and looked down on the other shoppers. The whole place smelled of perfumes and talcum, mixed with wood polish and body odor. ~Pg. 109
It seems only fitting that an intensely cruel scene should take place in such a refined setting.
Perhaps the most surprising and sublime aspect to the book were the long epigraphs at the beginning of each section. Claire Day, wife of the missing detective, has fashioned her angst into writing for children. Her stories have become quite popular under the pseudonym Robert Winthrop. The reader gets glimpses of “The Wandering Wood”, one her tales, in which all the wooden toys return to the forest where they were once trees.
Yesterday this was a plain empty field with nothing in it except grass and dirt and old stumps and bugs. Before that it was a huge place filled with trees, and Peter and I played here every day with a little boy who was our best friend. But then men came with saws and wagons and took all the trees away for make other things out of the wood. I suppose you must be made of one of the trees that was here before. All of the wood must have become homesick and come back again to the place it was born. ~Pg. 160
These interjections are splendid. The tone and style of a Victorian child’s story is dead on. The sort of wild-eyed innocence and obliviousness of the characters in it actually serve to ratchet up the tension as the reader begins to put the pieces together.
Lost and Gone Forever is a fast summer read for someone who wants something with more intellectual weight than a beach book. Those with a penchant for the era and style will enjoy the variety of characters and seeing how they all come together.
Thanks to Ashley at Putnam for the review copy.
Series: Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad (Book 5)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 17, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches