I’ve been fascinated by Jack the Ripper since, as a child, I first heard of him. For me he was the ultimate boogey man. As an adult my interest in the mysterious killer, who strolled the streets of Whitechapel in London, continues. In Behind the Doors, Brian L. Porter touches on the Ripper’s crimes. The story, however, is about a much smaller series of murders that revolved around the new London Metropolitan Railway. While Sir Charles Warren and Scotland Yard hope to catch the Ripper, Inspector Albert Norris and a very small team are assigned the task of discovering the Railway murderer. To compound the difficulty of having a limited number of men to investigate, he has been ordered to keep news of the murder out of the newspapers. Concerned that bad publicity might drive commuters away from the expanding railway, the Board of Directors uses its influence in government to keep the heinous crime under wraps.
The Railway murders often occur immediately after a Whitechapel murder. Yet no connection appears to exist between the crimes. As Doctor Roebuck performs a preliminary examination of the woman found dead on the train he discovers a paper in a hidden pocket of her dress. The paper announces a bible study group for young ladies at a local church. Other than that paper there is no clue to the woman’s identity. This begins a trail of clues that Norris must follow when additional murders occur.
Norris himself has a complex history and as the story unwinds it is apparent he is dedicated to his profession, regardless of any constraints placed on the investigation by higher authorities.
Although there are only three murders in this story directly related to the railway, they are also connected in a fascinating and skillful manner. The clues are all there and I did guess the identity of the killer(s?) early on. However following Norris and his team as they dig through seemingly disconnected pieces of the puzzle is intriguing. Porter has done his research and conveys the limitations as well as the skills of the London police force during the late Victorian period. The language and habits of the characters is well portrayed and believable.
The book concludes neatly without pulling surprises of thin air. It’s an honest crime thriller with excellent detective work. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Victorian crime stories.