🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
It is summer 1918, the tail end of WW1 when the outcome has become inevitable but the fighting is still dragging on. On a rainy evening in London, a woman is found dead beneath her window. At first it looks like an accident or suicide, but Divisional Detective Inspector Ernie Hardcastle suspects there may be a more sinister cause, and this is confirmed when Sir Bernard Spilsbury examines the body. It transpires that the victim was strangled. Georgina Cheney had been the wife of a naval commander away on service, but she’d been anything but the little woman waiting patiently at home. A succession of gentlemen callers had been seen at her house, many of them in uniform, and she had been known as a bit of a good-time girl. When DDI Hardcastle starts to investigate, he soon discovers there have been other similar cases which have never been solved, and now it’s up to him to find the murderer before another crime is committed…
This is an enjoyable historical crime novel, set well within its time. A police procedural, we see the story mostly from the point of view of Hardcastle’s put-upon ‘bag-carrier’, Detective Sergeant Marriot. Hardcastle is an old-fashioned copper, even for his time, reluctant to use newfangled technology like the telephone, while his junior staff are much more comfortable with the new ways of doing things. But Hardcastle’s dogged persistence and dedication to the job enable him to get results where others have failed. He’s a bit of an old curmudgeon with an outsize ego, so that he is always getting the backs up of everyone he meets, but he’s a believer in justice who pursues his cases without fear or favour. Marriot clearly admires him though he finds him intensely irritating too, since Hardcastle can be both grumpy and repetitive, and rarely gives his men any credit for their hard work.
The plot involves Hardcastle investigating various men in different sectors of society including the forces and this allows the author to give a believable account of life at this period. Like most of the novels written at or about the time this one is set in, the book deals primarily with the middle-classes – people who at that period still had a maid and perhaps a cook. On the whole, Ison has also reproduced both the attitudes and language of the time authentically enough to feel convincing. There’s actually a short glossary of the various terms that might not be familiar to a younger readership, explaining a lot of the wartime terminology and slang. (And it’s placed at the beginning of the book – hurrah! Am I the only one who’s cursed at unfamiliar words all the way through a book, only to discover a glossary lurking at the end?)
The book is part of a series but I haven’t read any of the others, and this worked perfectly well as a standalone. It’s very much a procedural so we don’t get too deeply into the characterisation or motivations of either victims or villains, but again that made it feel like a book from an earlier era and worked fine in the context. Personally I found Hardcastle himself a pain in the neck, but I think that’s probably the author’s intention, and the more attractive personality of Marriot softened Hardcastle’s rough edges a bit for the reader as well as for Hardcastle’s poor underlings. Overall, this is a well written and enjoyable read set at an interesting time, that would certainly encourage me to read more in the series.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Severn House.