Murder most morbid

Jen McCormack My assumptions about The Black Country by Alex Grecian were quickly proved wrong when little Hilde Rose peeked into a bird’s nest and grasped what she thought was an egg but turned out to be a human eyeball.

I picked this book off our new-fiction shelf expecting it to be an ordinary “police procedural” set in England. I read many of these murder mysteries that follow the work of detectives in solving crimes. I like the comforting patterns of evidence-gathering and interviewing of suspects and the admittedly fictional view into the life of a detective.

That scene with the bird’s nest is the ideal opening for what turns out to be an eerie novel in which the reader is aware that the children know more than any adult about the crime and an entire village appears to be trying to thwart the detectives.

Black Country is available at the library in hardcover

“Black Country” by Alex Grecian is available at the library in hardcover.

Grecian’s novel takes place in the coal-mining village of Blackhampton in 1890, just after Scotland Yard struggled with the ultimately unsolvable Jack the Ripper murders.

Two detectives are sent to help the local police find the missing Price family members: both parents and baby Oliver have been missing for weeks, and the discovery of the eyeball leads everyone to believe the worst about what happened to them.

Tales of monsters
However, instead of welcoming the detectives, the villagers act frightened and offer nothing but vague threats and stories from a nursery rhyme about monsters in the mines. Throughout the book Grecian does an excellent job of letting the reader know secrets held by the remaining Price children, making them seem sinister and malevolent.

Grecian has written a marvelous detective story in the police procedural style that I love, made even better by including England’s first forensic pathologist, the real-life Dr. Bernard Kingsley, and his state-of-the-art techniques.

If you like this kind of mystery I also recommend anything by Ruth Rendell or Val McDermid, who set a similar spooky and eerie mood in their novels.

Looking for more recommendations? Leave a comment below or email me at

About Jen McCormack

Jen McCormack is the director of the Nashua Public Library. Previously she was director of the Tewksbury (Mass.) Public Library and assistant director and reference librarian at the Amesbury (Mass.) Public Library. She studied history at UNH and earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.

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