The Black Country

The Black Country is Alex Grecian's newest book. Taking up where The Yard leaves off, this book has Inspector Walter Day and  Sgt. Nevil Hammersmith traveling to Blackhampton in March 1890 to investigate the disappearance of a man, his wife and one of their children, Oliver, an infant. Blackhampton is a small mining town falling into ruin and filled with secrets and superstitions. The black country of the title refers to the nickname of the coal country area the town in located in. It is also an apt description of the tenor of the town.

Anna, Pater and Virginia Price are all living with their housekeeper since the disappearance of their father, stepmother and youngest brother. Their mother disappeared years ago.  Anna and Peter have a secret and Virginia knows what it is. The town constable, Grimes, has asked for Scotland Yard's help after he has searched and cannot find any trace of the missing family. Under the town runs a warren of tunnels used for mining coal as well as for hiding the monster from the Rawhead and Bloody Bones children's rhyme. He is rumored to live in the tunnels, kidnapping and murdering little children.

When Day and Hammersmith arrive they are met by Calvin Campbell, a drifter who is staying in town.  He seems very concerned about the missing infant. The town has secrets which are hinted at by the vicar, the barkeep, the local teacher and Campbell. No one will say exactly what is going on. In addition to the missing family, an epidemic seems to be sweeping the town.

The story line follows several different paths: the disappearance, Campbell's past as a Civil War prisoner, the illness of the townspeople and the secret the Price children are keeping. All threads come together in a calamitous way.

These books are well written, with some historical detail that enhances the storyline. Day and Hammersmith are an odd pairing but they work well. I recommend both his books for entertaining mysteries.

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