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by Andrew Taylor
Hodder & Stoughton, October 2006
388 pages
16.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340895195

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's late 1947 and a young Richard Thornhill is seconded to the Palestinian police, a group of British policemen trying to keep order during the end of the Mandate.

In 1922, Transjordan was created by Winston Churchill as an Arab state, thus splitting off over 75 per cent of Palestine. The British then wanted to split the remaining territory between Jews and Arabs, but in 1939, they changed their minds and prevented any more European Jews from entering the safe haven of Palestine.

By 1947, The British had passed the problem on to the United Nations, who decreed that the land be split. The part of Palestine that contained mostly Arabs would be made an Arab state, containing 99 per cent Arabs, including some of the coastline and all of the highlands. The Jewish state would receive 55 per cent of the land, including the lowland plains that Jewish settlers had drained and made arable, access to the Red Sea and the Sea of Galilee and the undeveloped Negev Desert. Also their population would consist of 55 per cent Jews and 45 per centAarabs.

Of course, no one was happy about the upcoming Partition taking place in May 1948. The police had a very hard time keeping order. The Jews accepted that Partition was the only way they were ever going to get a homeland but the Arabs wanted it all. Both sides resorted to terrorist tactics to gain land and supporters.

In the meantime, young 'Ricky' Thornhill is taken in hand by Jock, an older policeman who is out for himself. Unbeknownst to Thornhill, Jock gets Richard to sign chits that incriminate himself, but after a particularly gruesome gun battle, in which an innocent Jewish woman is killed and an Arab is found hanged, Richard has a nervous breakdown, returns to England, and never discusses the few months he spent in Palestine again.

Ten years later, Jock, now a wreck of a man, comes to Lydmouth, ostensibly on a fishing holiday, but actually to get Richard to protect him from retribution for the death of the young woman.

However, as with all of the books in the Lydmouth series, the mystery is not the major focus. Jill Francis is back in Lydmouth and is now editor of the newspaper. She is also becoming friendly with Thornhill's wife Edith. As with all of Taylor's books, this is more about life in postwar England in a town on the Welsh border, than about crime. I would advise starting at the beginning to see the gentle reminders of that time over 50 years ago and how life has changed.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, September 2006

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