Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Former mountaineer and explorer, her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
The term Grand Guignol was coined for this type of rambunctious novel: short chapters, short scenes, villains and goodies distinguished by their behaviour. Killers and abusers confront guardian angels, the latter running the gamut from the Commissioner of Police to the lowliest beggar.
It is a year since the Ripper's killings and the atrocities that Scotland Yard's new Murder Squad is called on to investigate are different but equally nasty, the first victim having his lips and eyelids sewn together before being stuffed inside a trunk. London crawls with crime. Children are abducted for fates so horrid the book skirts details; prostitutes murder their clients, society ladies drug constables from nefarious motives. The workhouse is a cesspit, four-year-olds labour in the mines, a year later they sweep chimneys - and die there, suffocated. Research into the hideous underbelly of nineteenth century London is painstaking, but the prize goes to the apprehension of a killer by a primitive but effective method of fingerprinting using powdered charcoal, graduating to ink.
A highly coloured exercise and a curiosity for collectors of Victorian melodrama. You can smell the fog and the horse dung in the streets, the putrefaction behind closed doors.