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by David Stuart Davies
Thomas Dunne Books, January 2007
224 pages
ISBN: 0312360002

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The first of the Johnny Hawke novels, FORESTS OF THE NIGHT introduces the readers to our hero, London in the Blitz, and a few more of the author’s prejudices than I think he realized he was letting slip.

Several stories are being told simultaneously. Our hero is John Hawke, who had been a policeman before the war; after he loses an eye during boot camp he also loses his roles as both policeman and soldier. Invalided out of the British Army, he tries his luck as a private investigator.

One night his attention is caught by Peter, a frantic homeless child. John tries to take Peter in, but the boy is too wary to trust him. In the meantime, John gets a rare opportunity to actually do some detective work when the elderly Palfrey couple come asking him to find their missing daughter.

What seemed like a fairly straightforward case becomes more complicated when Hawke discovers that Pam Palfrey had been living a double life, playing the dutiful, conservative, frumpy daughter at home while setting herself up as a vampy starlet wannabe under a different name. But someone knew her secret, and that someone is starting to stalk everyone else involved.

The description is the only complex thing about this slender book. The setup is pure Hammett clichés, and the identity of the murderer is painfully obvious. I found the writing pedantic, with quotes from Shakespeare and Blake dropped in leadenly more to prove the author’s erudition than to move the plot forward.

The fact that the point of view changed every few pages (Hawke is told in first person, the others in third) fractures the narrative even more. But the underlying attitude – that all men are helpless victims of women who are universally deceitful and usually slutty to boot – shines through no matter which beleaguered, unhappy man is doing the talking. This female reviewer was less than impressed.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, April 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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