The crime appeared as easily solved as it was wicked. A Grub Street printer, his family, and two apprentices brutally murdered in their sleep. A locked building. And at the scene, a raving mad poet brandishing a bloody axe. Surely the culprit had been found, and justice would be swift and severe.
But to Sir John Fielding, justice was more than finding a culprit-it was finding the truth. Aided by thirteen-year-old Jeremy Proctor, Fielding decided to investigate further. And the truth behind the Grub Street massacre was more evil-and more deadly-than the dastardly crime itself.
Pseudonym of American journalist and author Bruce Cook.
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
Bruce Alexander Cook (1932–2003) was an American journalist and author who wrote under the pseudonym Bruce Alexander, creating historical novels about a blind 18th century Englishman and also a 20th century Mexican-American detective.
The story is told from the point of view of Jeremy, a young orphan who has through a series of events ended up being in Sir John's household. There are numerous murders, lots of weird comings and goings from a strange religious sect and plenty of detail about life in London in 1765. All of it well written and fascinating to read.
Recreates the 18th century in full colour and sound!
Recently orphaned Jeremy Proctor, "adopted" by blind magistrate Sir John Fielding and dutifully installed in the position of his assistant, protégé, jack-of-all-trades and utilitarian gopher, narrates a thoroughly entertaining tale of their continuing life together in MURDER IN GRUB STREET. Mere hours before Proctor is to report to a publishing house to begin his apprenticeship, Ezekiel Crabb, the owner, his entire family and two of their staff are found brutally axe murdered. John Clayton, a disgruntled poet fresh from a heated disagreement with Crabb is found wandering in the house, dazed and bewildered, clutching the murder weapon and the constabulary are immediately convinced the murder has solved itself! Fielding, of course, remains unconvinced by the evidence and looks elsewhere concerned that failure to find the real culprit might result in the conviction and execution of an innocent man.
Not to insult any reader's intelligence, least of all my own, but when other apparently unrelated murders and an arson in a nearby synagogue point Fielding's sleuthing in the direction of an outrageous sect of American zealots styling themselves Brethren of the Spirit who would forcibly convert any Jews to Christianity - well, it doesn't take a heavyweight literary analyst to realize the two cases will come together at some point! The plotting is quite transparent and the culprit is easily predicted at little more than the halfway point of the novel.
But the real strength of this novel lies elsewhere - extraordinary characterization and atmospheric embellishment that brings people, time and place to life with a sparkling vitality and a sense of realism that can hardly be rivaled - the slums, the prisons, the docks, pubs, theater, outdoor markets, upstairs, downstairs, Grub Street and the publishing business, of course, courts, gaming houses, bordellos, street walkers, pickpockets, scamps, cut purses and thieves. Jimmie Bunkins, a ne'er do well street urchin that begs to be compared to Dickens's The Artful Dodger and Corrie Swanson, the bright but rebellious teen Goth from STILL LIFE WITH CROWS, describes Sir John's wisdom, kindness and leadership ability, in a hilarious stream of street lingo that nearly defies understanding:
"What a rum cove he is! I ain't never met such a joe and I don't never hope to. I could be sent to crap by such as him and thank him for it."
(Now that would be an interesting and amusing English essay question for further research ... "Compare and contrast the characters of Jimmie Bunkins, The Artful Dodger and Corrie Swanson with reference to the roles of Sir John Fielding, Fagan and Aloysius Pendergast as their benefactors, teachers and mentors!")
A much more graphic and grittier novel than its predecessor BLIND JUSTICE, Alexander has used this novel to present a mystery - not a great one but a darned good one - that brings Georgian England to life in full sound and Technicolor. Thoroughly enjoyable!
A sensational opening to the book finds a seemingly mad poet with a blood stained axe in his hands at the scene of a triple murder in Grub Street. It appears to be an open and shut case but Sir John Fielding, the blind magistrate of the Bow Street Court, has his doubts.
Aiding by his young assistant, Jeremy (who relates the tale), he sets out to find out the truth of the matter. He calls on one of the literary giants of the day, Dr Samuel Johnson, who adds his wisdom to the investigation. Then, once a strange religious sect, the Brethren of the Spirit, appear running amok in Covent Garden Sir John's attention is brought to bear on them.
In an exciting, lively tale, which admirably captures the feel and turbulent times of the period, Sir John and his allies finally unmask the true perpetrators of the crime and dispense suitable justice.
Meanwhile Sir John finds romance, marries and with his lady wife he sets up a charity, 'The Magdalene House for Penitent Prostitutes'!
Not a preface nor prologue but before the narrative begins are a couple of pages that purport to be a contemporary newspaper article. It describes a massacre on Grub Street. A printer, his wife, his sons and two apprentices have been hacked to death. A poet is found on the third floor in a bloody nightgown with an axe in his hand. John Clayton is taken into custody to appear before Sir John Fielding, Bow Street Magistrate. Sir John comes to believe something is amiss. I could share more, but that might be wandering into what I would feel to be spoiler territory. Myself, I like to know only the barest of essentials to get me going.
From reading the first in the series, I know the time period to be about 1768. Also, it is mentioned that the final volume of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is at the book stores. I was amused that Sir John Fielding is clearly partial to The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, which Mrs. Gredge, the housekeeper, thinks inappropriate reading for young Jeremy Proctor. But we can forgive Sir John thinking his brother's book to be a better read.
I'm so glad I discovered this series. It appears that young Jeremy Proctor will continue to be the first person narrator. Sir John Fielding was a real person and magistrate. It was brother Henry Fielding who started the Bow Street Runners, but upon his death Sir John kept it going. What little history I know of this time indicates this organization was the first of a fledgling police force. In this installment of the series, the Bow Street Runners have an integral part to play.
All of that, and I must admit there is less mystery here than I might have wanted. The solution to the Grub Street Massacre is telegraphed early. Proving it is another matter entirely and that is what kept me reading. And it is what made me look first thing this morning for the next installment. I think this is 4-stars worth, but I admit that maybe I was just very ready for it.
Another enjoyable book in this series. The characters are engaging, the historical setting feels authentic, and the writing is clear and readable. Yes, it's true that the baddies are fairly obvious almost from the start of the book, but that doesn't necessarily detract from the book -- any more than it does a classic Columbo show, where you know perfectly well whodunit, you're just waiting for Columbo to lead the killer along with his bumbling detective routine until he can prove it.
There's no bumbling about Fielding, though; he's as sharp as they come. But in a small way, he's a bit of the inscrutable Holmes to our point-of-view character, young Jeremy, who's a bit naive but who learns and gains experience through his work for Fielding. It makes for an enjoyable experience to watch the smart and earnest young boy take steps into maturity.
There are some minor characters that are quite interesting, and I hope there'll be more of Jeremy's new friend, the reformed (?) pickpocket in future books. I look forward to reading the next in this series.
Book two in the Sir John Fielding mystery series. Young Jeremy Proctor has been apprenticed to a printer on Grub Street, but the night before he was to move to Mr Crabbs’ establishment to begin his training, the entire Crabb family and the two apprentices to lived with them were brutally murdered. A poet who also resided there was found with the likely weapon in his hand and taken into custody. But he maintains he is innocent. Sir John, though he is blind, is an astute investigator and Jeremy along with some of the colorful residents of Covent Garden help Sir John ferret out the truth.
This was much more complicated than the first book, and I admit my attention wandered a bit. There is religious fervor, multiple personalities, professional jealousy, anti-semitism, dreadful conditions of tenement buildings, and a light-fingered imp of a thief to complicate the case. Still, I love the way that Alexander has taken bits and pieces of history and woven them into these mysteries. Set in 1765 London, the protagonists must rely on their wits and old-fashioned investigative techniques. Sir John is, of course, further hampered by being blind, but Jeremy is an astute observer and honestly relates what he sees to his mentor.
While I was not as caught up in this tale as I was in the original, I found it to be an unusual and interesting tale, filled with noteworthy characters. The blind magistrate who is "the brains" behind solving crimes is amusing and fascinating. The young narrator is endearing and thorough in his depiction of events and the multitude of characters. This was a nice distraction and touched upon some timely topics, including the bastardization of the Biblical word. For that alone, it is worth a read.
In this sequel to Bruce Alexander’s first book “Blind Justice,” our narrator, 13-year-old Jeremy Proctor joins Sir John Fielding, the blind magistrate and co-founder of London's first police force, to investigate "The Murder in Grub Street." I loved "Blind Justice;" I only recently discovered the book and author on a recommendation of a friend. The characterization was marvelous; I quickly became involved in the characters' lives and wanted to know what was going to happen next. Set in the mid 18th Century, Bruce Alexander captures the essence of the era, but never-the-less, he does not shield us from its hardships, suffering, and slums. Rather, he blends actual history with his fictional mystery to capture the local color of London of the era.
In "The Murder in Grub Street" with the help of Samuel Johnson (yes, the dictionary one), Sir John has arranged a good printing apprenticeship for Jeremy. But the night before the apprenticeship is to begin, Ezekiel Crabb, and his family and two apprentices were brutally murdered. When the police arrived, John Clayton was found ranting incoherently in a blood-soaked nightshirt and with a bloody ax in his hand. Obviously, he is arrested for the crime. More murders and a torched synagogue lead to a band of religious zealots who have come from the American colonies to convert London's Jews.
Although this one is not quite as good as the first one; still the story is well told and the plot is cleverly woven. The characterization is developed carefully, and the characters are complex. What makes it especially intriguing are the historical descriptions of the people and customs of that time make this one of the best historical mystery series around. Additionally, historical figures are often cast as key characters as the afore mentioned Sam Johnson. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that our “Blind Beak,” Sir John Fielding, really lived from 1721-1780 and he was a Bow Street Magistrate. This is a marvelous series, and I am on my way to read the third in the Fielding series, “Watery Grave.”
The second of Bruce Alexander’s series featuring the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding and his Bow Street Runners, Murder in Grub Street begins with a bloodbath in a publisher’s house and office on Grub Street. One night, publisher and printer Ezekiel Crabbe, along with his wife and children and his apprentices, is murdered brutally, hacked to bits with an axe. The alleged murderer, a rural poet named John Clayton who had been taken for a ride by Crabbe—who reaped large profits from Clayton’s first book, with Clayton getting only a pittance for it—is found on the premises, with an axe in his hand.
It is only a matter of time before Sir John Fielding realizes that Clayton is almost certainly not the murderer, or at least not the only one, for how could so many people have been killed almost simultaneously by just one man? When Fielding and his young assistant, thirteen-year old Jeremy Proctor, set about investigating, they run into other happenings around London, including an assault on a synagogue and the sudden death of a rag woman.
While Murder on Grub Street begins promisingly enough, it loses steam midway through. The motive, and therefore the culprit, becomes obvious fairly early on in the book, so there’s little mystery left—the last few chapters are really more a question of figuring out how Fielding will nab the perpetrator. Other aspects of this story, too, are a little contrived: the wedding mentioned at the end, for instance, seems a little too forced.
Jeremy Proctor however is a likeable character, as is his boss, John Fielding (even if none too impressive here). The London of the late eighteenth century is very vividly depicted, and is one of the main highlights of the book.
Not a bad story, but by no means as addictive as Blind Justice, the first book in the John Fielding series.
The good news: discovering a writer whose work you love who has written a whole series. The bad news: learning that he is dead. At least there are 9 more books I can read in this series. I'm going to read them slowly. Each one builds on the one before it, as far as I can tell, but in such a way that I think you could start anywhere. They adopt the same device as the Sherlock Holmes novels with different cases being narrated by Jeremy Proctor, a young boy who is the adopted assistant of Sir John Fielding, a blind magistrate, and the head of the first professional police force in London, the Bow Street Runners. This means the reader learns gradually about the way the legal and police forces work in London in 1754. I also love the use of the retrospective voice. Jeremy has spent many years working with Fielding and often reflects on what he learned, sometime directly addressing the reader. The plots are complex and revolve around little-known historical issues (at least little known to me). This one introduces a fanatic sect dedicated to the conversion of the Jews in the belief that once all the Jews are converted, the Second Coming of Christ will occur. The Grub Street of the title is the part of London where the publishers, printers and booksellers lived so I also learned something about this industry and the apprenticeship system.
Jeremey Proctor, by thankful circumstance, is once again to be left in the care of Sir John Fielding in the second novel of this series. Six murders have occurred on Grub Street, the street full of printers and books, and it's up to Sir John to solve it - with a bit of help from Jeremy as always.
The beginning of the book somehow didn't seem to flow with the middle of the book at first. We start off questioning a suspect, then the story almost drags a bit as the murders are, at least to me, pushed back a peg. I found myself more interested in other events in the story than who really committed the crime for a tiny bit in the middle. But the story picked right back up once the proper connections were made and I wanted to hit myself for not seeing it sooner.
As this is the second book I've read by Alexander, I may be early in saying that I don't think the mysteries are too difficult to figure out. They're even a bit obvious. But what's important is the characters, who are easily memorable, and the story itself, which is always a fun journey.
Would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes mystery and a bit of history involved as well. This series now has a place on my shelf for the rest of my life (hopefully!)
I began liking Alexander's book - London in the 18th century, potentially interesting characters. But in the end I found the story incredibly lazy in its historical research, character development, and plot. The London he creates is formed by a slim number of particular details (unlike the London David Liss creates) and feels like a stage where the director is saying pay attention to this prop, do not notice I have not managed to do any other set design. His characters show little change, though Alexander is obviously trying to make Jeremy come of age as he catches glances at women (and is it really believable he would not have tasted beer until he was 13, no not in 18th century England). The plot is tiresome and the villains are obvious from the start and that actually makes me angry. His "colonial" religious sect is not explored and has little basis in American religious history. Their wooden and stereotypical actions display Alexander's bias, lack of imagination, and inability to understand the other. They are just plain evil and the movement to their judgment is swift, sure, and lacking in any creativity. A book I cannot recommend for its treatment of history or the alleged mystery involved.
The murder in Grub Street is described rather graphically. No spoilers in this review - but the graphic description almost made me pass on the book. Beyond that first murder nothing else in the book is quite so intense.
This is historical fiction, a genre that I don't usually like. . .the characters just didn't ring true. I agree with another reviewer who said the idea that our main character had never tried ale before seems anachronistic at best. The main character reminded me of the titular character in Johnny Tremaine. For the record, that book was set about a hundred years earlier than this one - and that's what I couldn't get past. The people didn't sense true to time. If the author hadn't tapped a real person, Sir Fielding, this whole story might have taken place in an earlier era and I would have bought that. . .
Another reason for the middle rating is the wandering storyline. I was hoping for more on the murder itself, which appears on the onset as an open and shut case. Murder mystery fans know better. I was hoping for a better reveal rather than the ponderous, long drawn out, twisting storyline interspersed with hardly related alternate storylines. Foo.
But even a bad mystery is better than a bustier busting romance novel - so three stars it is!
Murder in Grub Street is I think, the first Sir John Fielding mystery, and also my first. Fielding is blind and depends on others to physically assist, but his brilliant mind sees all despite his handicap. I love the era and setting of this historical mystery series, Georgian England, rich with texture, politics, social issues.
Until writing this snippet, I'd not realized that Sir John Fielding really did live from 1721-1780, really was blind and really was a Bow Street Magistrate. There's plenty to write about with this true hero of England, and I can't wait to read the rest of the Sir John Fielding mysteries, and also the non-fiction that gave birth to the fictionalized character.
Thanks to my friend Mary F. for sharing her stack of these Bruce Alexander mysteries, and for being so patient, waiting for me to find out how much I'd enjoy them.
Murder in Grub Street - VG Bruce Alexander - 2nd in series Following Jeremy proctor's adoption" by the Bow Street magistrate, Sir John Fielding, he has been found an apprenticeship with a printer in Grub Street. It was his father's trade and his knowledge of the business that had been happily snapped up by Ezekiel Cribb. However, on the day he was due to begin his apprenticeship, Cribb and his entire household are found massacred, the only survivor - heavily blood-stained - being a young poet whose work had been successfully published by Cribb. On the face of it he seems obviously guilty, but after cross-examining him Fielding isn't so sure and once more uses Jeremy's sharp eyes to assist him in revealing the real killer.
I'm so glad to see this pair back. The book deals with mental illness and religious fanatics. Great series.
The story begins with the brutal murder of a book publisher and his entire family in London during the mid-18th century. Supposedly, the killer, who is referred to as a mad poet, is caught with the weapon in his hand, but things are not always as they seem. The narrative is told through the eyes of thirteen year old Jeremy Proctor, the ward of Sir John Fielding, the benevolent and just magistrate, who will be overseeing the case. The plot develops into good storytelling with true, complicated characters, delving into the workings of the court system, exposing deception, greed, religious bigotry and an ending that will leave you reeling. The dilemmas that occur during this period are relevant today, concluding that the more things change, the more they don’t.
Well, let's see. I gave the first book in the series Blind Justice five stars but I actually liked this one better. So think of it as a five and a half star book.
Number Two in the series moves much faster than the previous book. It also is different from the usual police procedural (or, well, the substitute for police procedure back in 18th century London.) For me, mysteries drag during the endless interviews of suspects and witnesses. Not here. Okay, so there's not much of a mystery but HOW the killer is caught is worth the read more than figuring out whodunnit.
This is the second in Alexander's series of historical mysteries about Sir John Fielding, founder of the Bow Street Runners. Dr. Samuel Johnson is also a character in this one, which is centered around the printing and publishing industry in Grub Street. A horrific multiple murder takes place there just before hero Jeremy Proctor is to leave Fielding's house to apprentice as a printer in the same shop where the murders are done. Multiple personality disorder, anti-Semitism, religious cults, and memories of the French and Indian Wars all play into the story. My one quibble would be that Alexander may have put too much of 20th-century values into the mouths of 18th-century characters, but it's a good story nonetheless.
Despite being the second book in the series it could stand well on its own. I enjoyed the unraveling of this mystery. From the beginning I was quite uncertain how he would manage it but he did wonderfully. There is still one instance in my mind however that I don't understand why it was there and/or mentioned; it may be illuminated in the next book I suppose. Overall, an entertaining read and I plan on reading the next installment though how soon I am not sure. It is not necessarily the type of series that is best read close together which is usually what I prefer. I think you need time to recover from each mystery like the narrator Jeremy Proctor. I would recommend both books in the series so far to anyone who likes historical novels/mysteries.
i really liked this book. it's set in the mid 1700's in london and features a blind judge/sleuth and his young orphaned assistant. it's a time of tricorn hats and artful dodgers. i started with this one, the 2nd in the series, just by chance. the young assistant is 13 years old, but mature beyond his years. the narrator is this young man, many years later, recounting past stories. i plan to read the 1st one and continue with the rest in the series, of which there are about a dozen or so. one funny note - sometimes the young man talks in yoda-speak (for you star wars fans) i had to chuckle. i hope the rest of the series is this good.
They are an unlikely pair. An orphaned boy (Jeremy) and a blind Justice (Sir John Fielding), solve a horrific murder in London in the 18th century. Bruce Alexander has a real talent for developing characters which are instantly recognizeable and realistic. Anyone who loves historical fiction and mysteries will find it a good read. Middle school and high school students may find it a little tedious at times, due to the highly detailed nature of the story and use of the more verbose 18th century English. This would be a fine book for your summer vacation. One could go to London and "down the shore" at the same time!
Jeremy Proctor, who has been taken into the household of Sir John Fielding, an eighteenth century London magistrate, is about to be apprenticed to Mr. Crabb, a printer in Grub Street. The night before Jeremy is sup0posed to report, the Crabb family is found murdered in their home, and a John Clayton is suspected of the crime. At the same time, a group0 of religious zealots from the American colonies arrive in London to convert the Jews. Sir John does not agree with others’ presumption of guilt of John Clayton, and sets up an elaborate trap to uncover the real criminal. Jeremy continues to do his job as blind Fielding’s eyes well, and is able to help close the case.
I thoroughly enjoyed this next book in the series. While the murder of the title is very grim, there are a host of suspects and interesting characters which make Alexander's books a fun read. The only issue I have with the two books I've read so far is the voice of the narrator. I have trouble believing the 13-year-old narrator of the books would be so well spoken and educated, no matter how much he read and what his father taught him. He sounds more like the main character, Sir John Fielding, might. But other than that minor complaint, I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries.
This is the second book in the Sir John Fielding series.
Ezekiel Crabbe a publisher, his wife, two sons and two apprentices are viciously murdered in their Grub Street place of work. A man, bloodied and dazed is found standing over the bodies with an axe and a blood spattered night shirt. Sir John Fielding and his assistant Jeremy are called to the residence to investigate. The accused man seems to have three different personalities. And a fervent religious sect has taken up residence in Covent Garden preaching their own beliefs and causing some disturbance.
A good tale but not as enjoyable as the first book.
I wanted to enjoy this more than I did. Another reviewer has pointed out my main problem with it, which is that there was no mystery - it was perfectly obvious who committed the murders, as they were portrayed as cardboard-cutout bad, and all the other characters were cardboard cutout good. I was hoping for a twist at the end, but there wasn't one. Meh.
You have to be willing to enter into the time, pace, and language of late 1700's? London to appreciate these mysteries. They are well-written and clever, but slow. Since I'm concurrently reading the wildly-paced Jodi Taylor series, these are falling into a back seat. So I'll take them up a bit later.
This series is addicting, and this book is even better than the first in the series. Magistrate sir John fielding has been blinded by a war injury. He investigates crimes with the help of his assistant Jeremy, a 13-year-old orphaned boy. In this mystery, a family and their apprentices are murdered and it seems like an open and shut case. Yet sir fielding has doubts and continues digging deeper.
Such a delightful series! Historical British mysteries are my favorites and this series ranks up there as one of my favorites. The characters are very well drawn and likable. The plots are compelling and contain a sprinkling of history without being bogged down in details. Sir John and young Jeremy are becoming some of my favorite literary companions.