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TUG OF WAR
by Barbara Cleverly
Carroll & Graf, June 2007
256 pages
$24.95
ISBN: 0786719575


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's 1926 and Scotland Yard detective Joe Sandilands is going on vacation to France with his adopted niece Dorcas Joliffe. Dorcas has been living with his sister ever since he met her at the rather bohemian home of her artist father. She is to join her father for the summer in France and so Joe is talked into delivering the young teen to her family.

Before he leaves he is called in to speak to Sir Douglas Redmayne of the British War Office. Sir Redmayne asks him to look into the identity of a mostly silent, amnesiac, shell-shocked soldier who is in a hospital in France. It had been thought the soldier was French but he suddenly spoke in English one day, making the idea that he was English something for the War Office to look into.

The soldier's picture has been printed in the media and many people are claiming that he is their lost son or husband from the war. Because he will be given all of his back pay, the man will be worth quite a lot of money to anyone who can prove he is their relative. The French have already cut the list of people who want the man to four families and Joe is to speak to all of them in order to see who the solider belongs to or if he is really English and should be brought to London.

Joe doesn't really want to do the job. He has been working hard at his job as a police detective and wants some time to himself. But after hearing of the poor man's plight and having a soft heart for all his fellow soldiers who served in the horror that was the First World War, Joe accepts the assignment.

With the very able help of his niece, Joe delves into his assignment by interviewing the four families who claim the soldier is theirs and by visiting the poor soldier himself. Before long Joe's inquiries uncover a plot to cheat the government, bring to light family abuses, reveal an illicit love affair and expose a murder. Now it's up to Joe to sort it all out and decide who gets to claim the soldier if anyone does!

This is the sixth in writer Barbara Cleverly's Joe Sandilands mystery series, and as with all the other books this one is also a first-rate mystery and a wonderfully well-written book. The time period of just after the war is perfectly reproduced, and it discusses many of the very difficult issues that happened during that war.

Although Dorcas seems to be written as a bit too old for a 14-year-old, Cleverly has a talent for creating characters that ring true and all can easily be the center of their own novels.

TUG OF WAR is an intelligent and sophisticated murder mystery set in a time period that needs to be explored more. The aftermath of the First World War and the changes that the world went though is an amazing topic and Cleverly does the whole subject justice.

Reviewed by A. L. Katz, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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