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The Black Country Hardcover – May 21 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (May 21 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399159339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399159336
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15 x 4.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #291,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

Praise for THE BLACK COUNTRY
 
“It isn’t often that a mystery-thriller enthralls so completely . . . but as usual with Mr. Grecian, there is more to this tale than complex plotting. [The] book brings to life the murky collision of two worlds in the Victorian era: traditional folklore and modern science.  This intersection, captured so well by authors of the period, from Charles Dickens to Thomas Hardy, was fraught with complex questions about identity, authority, and belief . . . The Black Country captures all of these nuances while preserving the fast-paced plotting and breathlessness of a first-rate thriller . . . Whether you read the tale in the dark night of winter of the haze of a summer sun, be prepared for the chill.  The days are dark in Black Country.”—The Huffington Post
 
“I enjoyed the swift pacing of Grecian's story, its abundant period detail and its exuberantly gruesome tone . . . The gentlemanly, no-nonsense banter of the detectives in the face of evil is one of the prime pleasures of this riveting Victorian procedural.”—NPR.org
 
“Grecian’s (The Yard) latest Murder Squad adventure is a fast-paced homage to the Victorian countryside mysteries of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. Recommended for Anglophiles, period mystery enthusiasts, and anyone interested in medical Victoriana.”—Library Journal
 
“Grecian’s riveting novel is an intelligent historical thriller similar to Jean Zimmerman’s atmospheric psychological novel The Orphanmaster (2012), and as shocking as David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art (2013).”—Booklist (starred review)
 
“Startling and spooky . . . [a] bold melding of horror with historical elements.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“[Grecian] presents with fine precision the gray and gritty atmosphere of late-Victorian England.”—Kirkus
 
Praise for THE YARD

“Outstanding. If Charles Dickens isn’t somewhere clapping his hands for this, Wilkie Collins surely is.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
 
"Lusciously rich with detail, atmosphere, and history, and yet as fast paced as a locomotive, The Yard will keep you riveted from page one. It's truly a one- or two-sitting read."—Jeffery Deaver, author of Carte Blanche and The Bone Collector

About the Author

ALEX GRECIAN is the national bestselling author of The Yard and the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and son.


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By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Aug. 20 2013
Format: Hardcover
When I read Alex Grecian's debut novel, The Yard, last year, I immediately added him to my 'must read' list.

His second book The Black Country brings back the investigators from Scotland Yard's Murder Squad.

Grecian starts off the book with a quick little 'gotcha' scene. A little girl climbing a tree finds something of great interest in a bird's nest - what she thinks is a lovely little blue egg - but it's an blue eye....

1899. Detective Day and Sergeant Hammersmith are sent to the small mining town of Blackhampton in the British Midlands. Two of the town's residents and their young son have vanished and the local constable is in over his head.

But what Day and Hammersmith find is not a town overly worried about the loss of three of their residents, but an insular mining town full of superstitions, suspicions and secrets. No one is willing to talk to the detectives, instead they seem bent on stopping the investigation in its tracks. A stranger who's only been in town for two weeks with his own agenda is more welcomed than Day and Hammersmith.

The Black Country is a busy book - the town is falling into the tunnels beneath, the townsfolk are falling sick from a mysterious malady, the children of the town are afraid of a boogeyman they've named "Raw Head, Bloody Bones", the weather is just as determined as the murderer to kill off a few more folks and the mysterious stranger has another mysterious stranger after him. A lot of plot? Oh, for sure - but I loved it!

What drew me to the first book has again captured me in The Black Country. I love the time period, but I especially enjoy these characters.
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By L. D. Godfrey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 23 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked this novel much better than the "The Yard". Honestly, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Although "The Black Country" starts out with some of the same characters that were in the first novel,it is a better story and better written. We have Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith heading up an investigation into the disappearance of a prominent family in the village of Blackhampton.The whole family hasn't disappeared,just the parents and the youngest son,Olivar. Three children from a previous marriage are still on the scene.Day and Hammersmith are holed up at the local inn,awaiting the arrival of Dr.Kingsley.The good Dr is another character from the first novel.He is the forensic member of the team,if you can use the term forensic,it is 1890.I found the novel an easy read and had no trouble getting into the story and the century.The plot was fairly simple.I would have liked to have seen more of a mystery/whodunit. Grecian does give you some interesting characters,a superstitious inn-keeper and some shady guests all wrapped up in a looming snow storm. If you liked the "TheYard", then the "The Black Country might be a good choice.
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Format: Paperback
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa1133aec) out of 5 stars 210 reviews
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1151c78) out of 5 stars PLOT IS A BIT QUESTIONABLE AT TIMES & THE STORY LACKS CONTINUITY! May 14 2013
By Haze Blackmon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I love me some historical fiction, especially Bernard Cornwell, but this one just didn't do much for. That kind of surprised me because I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Yard. Inspector Day and Sergeant Hammersmith are back again, this time traveling to the Scottish highlands to solve a missing persons case. I really like the time period of 1890's Victorian England/Scotland. Grecian really gives you the feeling that the time period that he is writing about is accurate. The language(dialogue) between the characters has a very British feel to it. Even being a bit odd at times. The two biggest problems I had were with the plot and with the continuity of characters and their developement from the first book. This is an interesting story, but unfortunately their are a number of plot points that aren't logical. For instance, one example, is a very important person to the case(I won't say who) is murdered and no one seems to take notice. Really? Their are plenty of other examples, but I don't want to be longwinded about this.

As far as continuity, the characters(Day and Hammersmith) are poorly developed. By that I mean by the end of the book we hardly know more about than we did at the end of The Yard. It's like Grecian assumes that everyone has read The Yard and decided to forgoe including any additional details about the main characters. But even if, like me, you've read The Yard you'll be(or should be) disappointed that he didn't expand on them. New readers won't necessarily be lost, but I think they will be missing out on getting a more robust, well-rounded read out of The Black Country. Overall, this is a pretty decent read that could have been much better if there weren't so many Swiss cheese plot holes and the author had further developed the characters(and maybe given a refresher course for the new readers). I definitely don't recommend reading The Black Country if you haven't read The Yard. Even then, I only say read it if you can get it at your local library or you can pick up a cheap copy somewhere. Def not worth full price though. Hopefully Grecian will do a better job with the next book. I give the book 3.5 stars out of 5.
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11585c4) out of 5 stars Gore but that's all June 9 2013
By David L. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Yard was a very good novel - The Black Country is not. As I began to read I immediately noticed that this book needed a better edit but I passed over the weak descriptions and repetitive language hoping for a great plot with memorable characters. It didn't happen. So many gimmicks and so much gore and still I was disengaged enough that in the last half of the novel I finished by skimming. I read a lot and hardly ever skim. Sections of La Lacuna I read twice . I've thought about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that the "soul" of the book is missing and I was left frustrated and empty at the end.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11580a8) out of 5 stars The Black Country Oct. 4 2014
By Damaskcat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I think this well written crime novel set in the late Victorian period is not for the faint hearted as there are some pretty gruesome scenes in it. Inspector Day and his sidekick Sergeant Hammersmith are sent for to the heart of the Black Country to a mining village where a small child and his parents have disappeared. It soon becomes clear that the whole village is in the grip of some sort of epidemic with many of the inhabitants falling prey to a mystery illness.

Day and Hammersmith soon realise that they are not welcome in the village and the atmosphere of a closed community is very well drawn with all its claustrophobia and suspicion. It seems just about everyone knows what is going on but is unwilling or unable to tell Day and Hammersmith. I liked the Victorian background and the way buildings are prone to disappear into the earth without any warning. The snow storms also add to the atmosphere.

I did enjoy this book but felt that too much of the violence was included for the sake of the effect it produces on the reader. It could all have been hinted at rather than graphically described without any loss to the story. Day and Hammersmith are interesting characters and I have already started reading the next book in the series though I suspect there is going to be rather too much graphic violence in that one for my taste too.
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11589fc) out of 5 stars Excellent Read - Murder in a Collapsing Coal Village April 29 2013
By J. Avellanet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
It's rare that a prologue - especially a 2 page prologue - can surprise and excite. And with this quick success, Alex Grecian's The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad) is off to a superb start. The book is easy to get into, enjoyable and well written with smart dialogue and interesting characters. (In fact, I was enjoying this book so much, that I wasn't halfway through it before I went online and ordered Grecian's first Scotland Yard book).

Set in the old coal mining village of Blackhampton in 1890, the story revolves around Inspector Day and his companion, Sergeant Hammersmith, trying to find a lost boy and his missing parents. Three other children of the parents are still in the village when Day and Hammersmith arrive, but the children are strangely uncooperative - so Day and Hammersmith (and us) know that something is not quite so straightforward with the family and the disappearances. But what? And does that have any actual helpful bearing on finding the boy and his parents?

Meanwhile, we have a cast of interesting village characters - a superstitious innkeeper quick to judge and condemn, a parson whose old wife slips Day a cryptic note, a visiting ornithologist, and a coal mining village whose people are falling ill at a rapid rate. Indeed, the air seems full of coal dust, enough to quickly bring Hammersmith to feeling ill and make Day want to get this case over with quickly so he can get back to London.

If you've seen the BBC or BBC America's Ripper Street, you'll realize that the author nailed the characters, their manner of speech, and their odd quirks and pseudo-science beliefs mixed with superstition. There were many times reading this book that I wondered if Grecian might either be a fan of the series or be one of the writers, so easily did images and sounds from the series blend with Grecian's descriptions and scenes. Admittedly, the concept of the coal mining village slowly sinking as a result of all the mine tunnels dug over the decades below it - well, that sounded a bit implausible at first - so I went online and in the first page of a google search, found a lot of news even today of this happening all around the world from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Mongolia, to Hunan Province in China, villages in the Balkans, and so on. The photos online sure look a lot like what Grecian describes happening in Blackhampton, so he did an excellent job there as well.

The dialogue is crisp and smartly written; timed perfectly throughout the story to help things move along. I've a pet peeve with mysteries that tell you things rather than letting you "discover" them or realize them through dialogue and character actions. I'm happy to say that Grecian is not a "tell you what to believe" but rather a "shows you what's happening" and he lets you draw your own conclusions. Indeed, part of the joy of an excellent mystery is challenging yourself to figure out whodunit before the inspector. Here The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad) succeeds, but not perfectly. I certainly figured out at least who was actually involved in the murder before Day and Hammersmith - you will too - but I do admit that I did not put all the pieces together to figure out how it all went down until the end. There are also some parts of the story that are not resolved - what prompted Day's doctor, Dr. Kingsley, who arrives later in the story - to run an experiment upon his first arrival in the village, what happens to some of the other characters in the book, and so on. At the end of the day, though, these are minor "I wish..." quibbles and do not justify detracting even half a star from the book. If anything, they lend credence to the concept that the world goes on around Day and Hammersmith (and us) whether the two are there to see it or not. It also helps, I believe, remind us that these two - for very different reasons - are uncomfortable in the coal mining village and long to put it behind them and get back to their lives in London.

Finally, a word of caution. Once picked up, The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad) is very hard to put down. There are two "interlude" chapters where Grecian gives some backdrop history to two characters. If you plan on getting any sleep the night you start reading the book, take advantage of these interludes and set the book down. You won't be able to stop turning the pages otherwise.
HASH(0xa1158bb8) out of 5 stars Much Better Than The First One June 11 2013
By boswell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was on the fence after reading the first book in this series, The Yard, as to whether I would continue on with the series. I was intrigued by the characters in the first book, but I found the author's writing style, mixing almost slapstick humor with a very dark story, somewhat off-putting. However, because I liked the characters so much I did read the second book, The Black Country, and am very glad I did. I found this book far superior to the first effort. The characters are still great, and extremely memorable (including the one-off characters) but in this one I thought the plot was much more taut and much creepier, and the humor was less slapstick and more witty, thus meshing better with the story. This book was almost as good as The Alienist, which is still my favorite historical mystery piece from this time period. I highly recommend this book, and can't wait for the next in the series to come out.


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