At the request of the local constable, Detective Inspector Day, Sergeant Hammersmith, and Dr. Kingsley are sent to Blackhampton on loan from Scotland Yard to solve the mystery behind the disappearance, and possible murder of a small family.
Upon arriving at Blackhampton, Detective Inspector Day and Sergeant Hammersmith soon find that the residents of the small mining town are strongly superstitious, suspicious of their presence and involvement in the case, and seem to have secrets of their own.
Having been already been introduced in The Yard, less focus is given in The Black Country to the personal lives of dependable Detective Inspector Day, slovenly, but dedicated Sergeant Hammersmith, and inquisitive Dr. Kingsley, who has a strong dislike for quack medical practices and backwardness. More emphasis is given on the the residents of Blackhampton, particularly to the mysterious Cal Campbell, who the law enforcers learn has a dark secret he’d rather not divulge.
The Black Country has a supernatural feel to it that is not found in The Yard. Being set in a rural area, the physical setting of a depressing town, snow covered forests and dark mining tunnels only help in giving the novel a darker feel than The Yard. The nature of the crime and the perpetrators, are likewise, darker and more disturbing than the events and criminals of The Yard.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much fun reading The Black Country as I did reading The Yard. Though it has the same elements as The Yard – a dark-ish mystery to be solved with interesting characters bordering on the quirky, I felt that The Black Country was not such a riveting read. The plot and nature of the crime being solved, though dark, seemed shallow and superficial, and the presence of the law enforcers from London in Blackhampton unnecessary. I felt that the story could do with more explanations and the ending, especially, was rushed, with a lot of loose ends.
My recommendation: Read The Yard to escape into a good crime-novel, but don’t rush into The Black Country; wait for the 3rd book and hope that it’s much better.
The Black Country (2013) – Alex Grecian
G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 218 pages
Personal rating: 2.5/5