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Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

MayhemReviewed by Teri Davis

Most people have heard about the legendary serial killer of the late 1800s in London, Jack the Ripper. Part of his fame was due to his letters to the media, However at the same time and also in London and during this same time in the mid-1880s another serial killer was active who also preyed on women who were on the streets.

His manner was different from the notorious Jack the Ripper. Known to Scotland Yard as The Torso Killer, he dismembered his victims after killing them and tossed the remains into the Thames. He did keep one souvenir of his victims, their heads.

Dr. Thomas Bond, as police surgeon, begins to investigates these killings. He is one of the first to notice that there are two separate killers even though both are brutal. With the usage of opium, he begins to make connections to the identity of the killer that seems to elude the police.

The opium dens happen to be where the doctor connects with a priest and a hairdresser who believe they know the identity of The Torso Killer. The doctor though is a friend of this man’s family and does not want to believe it. Could someone of his social class be this type of murderer? What could cause such an evil to possess any person? Are his family and friends safe?

Mayhem has the reader viewing these killings through the eyes of the forensic doctor, Dr. Bond as he investigates both the brutality of Jack the Ripper and The Torso Killer. You feel his triumphs and his frustrations as well as the investigation continues.

In “Mayhem” you even experience life in London in the late 1800s during this time of the brutal killings and feel the fear of the residents. The historical descriptions are phenomenal especially the sights, smells, and sight of being inside an opium den.

The story is paced through Dr. Bond’s perspective and deals with his guilt, fears, and thoughts throughout the investigation. Because of this, the pacing is sometimes erratic, but so is the doctor. Sarah Pinborough perfectly matched the character as the investigation developed even sometimes leaving the doctor exhausted.

The capturing of the setting in “Mayhem” from the varying residential and business areas of London to the prostitutes and the area around the river, allows a window into the past to view what is difficult for us to actually experience.

Sarah Pinborough is a British author, teacher, writer, and screenwriter specializing in horror and the supernatural. Using the name Sarah Silverwood, she has written fantasy novels for children. Sarah’s books were finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. She has won the British Fantasy Award for the Best Short Story in 2010.

Mayhem” is a brilliant story encompassing Jack the Ripper and The Torso Killer in a well-organized hypnotic tale.

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