Mayhem is set in the late 1880s of London, when perpetual fog and crime coat the city’s cobblestone streets. By the flicker of gaslit lamps, there is an unidentifiable blackness lurking between shadows. A terrible killer plagues the streets, leaving mutilated and dismembered bodies, pieces of which are found in string-tied rages, discarded throughout the city and in the Thames.

Critically acclaimed author Sarah Pinborough methodically blends historical fact and fiction. She crafts a new monster from man and myth, pulling from the unsolved murders of London’s “Torso Killer” and Eastern European folklore.

Dr. Bond is a respected medical examiner who harbors his own black vice as a frequenter of opium dens. Frenzied Londoners are quick to assume the carnage belongs to the serial killings of Jack the Ripper, but Dr. Bond realizes distinct, nauseating differences between the cases: The bodies are crudely carved in bestial ways, and even with exhaustive searches the heads are never recovered.

As Dr. Bond pursues this unknown lunatic, he finds himself oddly allied with a Jesuit priest of an ancient Roman order and Aaron Kosminski, an oracular immigrant afflicted with trembling visions of a terrible evil baying for blood. Dr. Bond is a hard man of science, but he sinks deeper into the maddening mire of the supernatural when the monster’s suffocating presence draws closer to those he loves.

Mayhem is a disturbingly engrossing Victorian horror with a standout, menacing villain. Never have I known a smile to be so sinister and rancid, but Pinborough’s prose proves the gesture to be something terrifyingly palpable. This genre-defying novel is a ravenous read and will have you as insatiable as the malicious mischief-maker that awaits you in its pages.

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