I was first drawn to this novel as I am fascinated by all things Jack the Ripper. Turns out, this novel doesn’t really have much to do with Jack the Ripper at all, although he is often mentioned. Mayhem is instead centered around the real life ‘Thames Torso Murders’ that occurred around the same time. I knew nothing about these murders before the novel, and much like in the case of Jack the Ripper, these murders remain unsolved and the true identity of the killer was never ascertained. Unlike Jack, he was active for a longer period of time and only one of his victim’s was ever identified. They were penned the ‘Thames Torso Murders’ as the killer dismembered his female victims (their heads were never found), and some of their torsos, alongside some other body parts, were pulled from the Thames.
If you’re interested in learning more about these murders you can certainly Google them, but I found this link particularly useful in my recap. Also, you could just read the novel, as it’s pretty awesome, has a even spookier and intriguing twist, and a lot of the events are factual (or at least based upon real occurrences.)
A huge bulk of the characters in this novel are actual real people that were in someway involved in investigating this killer and his sadistic crimes. Dr Thomas Bond, who I would consider the main character (he narrates most of the novel), was a real physician who worked on both this case and the Jack the Ripper murders, Dr Charles Hibbert was a colleague of his that was also involved, and Inspector Henry Moore was a police official who worked on both cases also. Elizabeth Jackson, the only identified victim of this killer, and the victims of Jack the Ripper are also included, and retain their own names in the novel. Obviously, a lot of these real events are reworked in the novel, and in some instances new plot points are fabricated in order to involve a darker paranormal twist.
It took me a while to get into this novel, as at first there was a lot of switching viewpoints when not much background had been established. This was confusing initially, and stopped me from connecting with the characters. By the end however, I really felt that Dr Thomas Bond was a great character, very easy to relate to, and was explored with respect . In fact, I feel all the characters were well written and it was even more engaging to me that these were real people around at this disturbing time.
Once I got into it, I enjoyed the set up of the novel. Most of the chapters are written from the viewpoint of Dr Bond, but some are narrated by other characters, and the chapters are occasionally interposed by text in the style of newspaper clippings. The font and layout were exactly what you would expect of an old newspaper, and although I’m not sure, I highly suspect these might be real extracts from papers published around the time of these murders. This helped further in creating a really authentic old-timey feel, and also helped chop up (excuse the bad taste in pun!), the bulky chapters which could sometimes be a bit heavy going.
The supernatural, paranormal element is introduced as part of the killer himself – there is something other at work here, besides the already distressing work of a serial killer. I won’t elaborate much further as I want to keep the mystery for anyone who decides to read it!
Personally, I find reading about true crime riveting, albeit a little macabre for some, I like historical fiction, and I love all things paranormal, so on paper this was my perfect novel. Despite giving it only three stars, it an immensely enjoyable read once it got going, and I will definitely be getting my hands on the follow up, Murder. It was just too much of a slow starter for me to rate higher. All in all, I feel that the ending of the novel was really well executed, there was plenty of build up with palpable tension that was very fitting, and the climax was no disappointment.
Thanks for reading!