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'Workshop' shows dark, desperate side of Victorian England

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 5:07 p.m.

The 1890s were a heady time for Scotland Yard, with its move into bigger headquarters to accommodate its expanded force. Investigations began to look at psychological motives of crime and recognized the value of the emerging science of forensics.

Victorian times and crimes provide an evocative and intriguing backdrop for Alex Grecian's series about Scotland Yard's Murder Squad and its tight-knit detectives. “The Devil's Workshop,” Grecian's third novel, works well as a police procedural as well as historical fiction steeped in fact and myth of the period.

A planned train derailment outside a London prison allows several vicious murderers to escape during the chaos. Inspector Walter Day and the other detectives immediately are on the case, knowing that one of the first things these convicts will do is kill again. Walter especially is worried about his pregnant wife, Claire, because one of the murderers knows where he lives.

The Scotland Yard detectives are joined by several retired inspectors, including Adrian March, who was Walter's mentor. While the priority is capturing the escaped prisoners, the detectives also follow a chilling trail to find out who was behind the train wreck.

“The Devil's Workshop” takes the detectives to darkened alleys, subterranean prisons and regular neighborhoods. The shadow of Jack the Ripper, whose Whitechapel atrocities are still fresh in the detectives' thoughts, permeates the plot without overwhelming the gripping story.

Grecian delivers a realistic and frightening look at violence during Victorian England in “The Devil's Work shop.”

Oline H. Cogdill is a contributing writer for the (South Florida) Sun Sentinel.

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