In the third book in the Scotland Yard Murder Squad series, Inspector Day and Sergeant Hammersmith have been pressed into service searching for four, or possibly five, prisoners who escaped after a train car derailed and crashed into a prison wall, apparently deliberately. One of them is a murderer whom Day caught in the first place, and who may possibly go after his wife, Claire, who is expecting a baby any day. To make matters even worse, Jack the Ripper is back on the loose after having been secretly captured and held prisoner by a shadowy organization.
After three books, Day, Hammersmith, and the reoccurring supporting characters still come across as rather lightly sketched. Jack is the most compelling character, although he still feels a bit derivative. I worry that it sounds a bit ridiculous, when Jack the Ripper is one of the models for all fictional serial killers, but we are dealing with a fictional version of Jack that was just created here. His fixation with "transforming" people is reminiscent of Thomas Harris characters, and since I do not believe that theme was in any of the Ripper letters, I can't excuse it by saying that it's an actual association with the historical Jack. If I've missed a letter that suggested Jack the Ripper did think in those terms, please correct me.
What keeps me reading this series is the setting. The little details of weapons, the things that Scotland Yard can and cannot do with forensics in the 1890s when modern ideas of forensic science were just starting to be formed are worth the time and keep the reader's attention in between the pure action scenes. That's why I'll be looking for the fourth book, which was rather more obviously set up at the end than other installments in the series have been.
The Devil's Workshop will be available May 20.