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Crossbones Yard (Alice Quentin) by Kate Rhodes
Cover Artist: Photo: Ashley Franklin / Trevillion Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250014283
Date: 26 February 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

London Psychiatrist Alice Quentin is enjoying one of her nightly, stress-relieving jogs through Southwark. Upon stopping to rest at Crossbones Cemetery, she discovers the naked, decomposing corpse of a young prostitute. Crosses have been etched with a knife all over her skin. Soon afterwards, Alice discovers another corpse with the same MO near the van of her drug-addicted brother, Will. Despite round-the-clock protection from the authorities, Alice receives death threats in the mail as the body count continues to rise.

Kate Rhodes’ superb debut, Crossbones Yard, is the type of mystery I love to read--a genuine whodunit that is both creepy and horrifying. A Jack the Ripper-type serial killer is terrorizing London and our terribly flawed heroine, Alice Quentin, seems to be at the center of the grisly murders. There are numerous men and women in her life with psychological ailments; any one of them could be the killer. My social life had to come to a screeching halt until I finished reading the novel’s bloody, shocking denouement.

While learning about Dr. Alice Quentin, I kept thinking, “Physician, heal thyself.” She helps patients overcome their fears and phobias. Yet, she has many herself. A victim of child abuse, she hasn’t learn to overcome her claustrophobia from being locked inside a closet; neither has she learned to forgive her parents. She remains aloof from her mom and is quick to judge others. In other words, she’s a hypocrite who doesn’t practice what she preaches. I could understand if she belonged to another profession. The author must’ve chosen Alice’s profession to be psychiatry because her friend, DCI Don Burns, keeps using her as a consultant on the murders.

The novel’s diverse cast of bizarre characters includes Alice’s obsessive, narcissistic ex-boyfriend, Sean, who is a surgeon; her drug-addicted brother, Will, who sees angels and demons; a recently paroled ex-con, Morris Cley, who was convicted for murdering a prostitute; and her romantic interest, DS Ben Alvarez, who still mourns his deceased wife. The strangest character is an imprisoned serial killer, Marie Benson, who resembles a female version of Hannibal Lecter. Someone is copycatting the murders she and her husband Ray, now deceased, committed in their privately owned hostel. Alice frequently questions Marie as she desperately searches for clues to the serial killer’s identity.

Crossbones Cemetery, a.k.a. Crossbones Graveyard, is an actual landmark in Southwark, London, that is rich in history. In medieval times, prostitutes were buried there in unmarked graves because the Catholic church refused to bury them in hallowed ground. In the 18th century, it became the final resting place for paupers. With its wrought-iron gates decorated with countless ribbons and totems, Crossbones Graveyard is a major tourist attraction with its own website. It is also a veritable hotspot on Halloween, having hosted innumerable plays and tours.

Kate Rhodes’ Crossbones Yard is highly recommended for those who enjoy grisly, macabre mysteries that have unique settings and are seeped with provocative history. A less-tortured heroine who is more amiable and congenial would have been nicer. Hopefully, in the sequel (and I pray there is one), Alice Quentin will be calmer and less stressed and won’t have to run late at night in order to flee the demons from her past. Hopefully, all psychological and physical injuries that were borne at Crossbones Yard will be forever healed.

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