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by Edward Marsden
Alison & Busby, September 2011
319 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 074900990X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the first novel in a new series that the author calls The Home Front Detective Series, set in World War I. It begins in 1915 with the sinking of the Lusitania - an event that caused an outbreak of anti-German feeling on a scale not previously seen in the war. First in Liverpool and then in other major cities there were riots, vandalism and arson against businesses owned by people with German names. Detective Inspector Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy of Scotland Yard are called to investigate the burning down of a tailoring business in London's Jermyn Street, in which the owner, Jacob Stein, lost his life. There are plenty of witnesses to the fact that a mob was responsible for the arson attack but when it is discovered that Mr Stein did not die in the fire, but was stabbed, the detectives realize that they may not be dealing with a simple case of violence against German immigrants.

Whilst Sergeant Keedy, influenced by the fact that Jacob Stein was Jewish, feels that the cause of the attack might be anti-semitism, Inspector Marmion persuades him to treat the case as a routine murder inquiry. Suspects emerge, including the dead man's brother, former employees who had been dismissed and a survivor of the Lusitania sinking. The subsequent investigation is very convincingly portrayed and is brought to an exciting conclusion as the guilty party is revealed. At one point the detectives find themselves in France during the First Battle of Ypres, although this part of the novel is only marginally connected with the murder investigation.

In fact, there is a considerable amount of material, introducing a number of characters, which has little bearing on the pursuit of the murderer. There is, for example, Irene, a former stewardess on the Lusitania, who, having given up her life on the sea, has moved from Liverpool to London and is seeking a job. There is her sister, Dorothy, who is fast becoming an old maid and has almost given up hope of ever finding a man. Also given large parts are the daughter of the murdered man, Ruth, and Alice, Chief Inspector Marmion's daughter. Ruth has experienced her own trauma and is beginning to recover from it. Alice wants to give up her job as a teacher and join the Women's Emergency Corps an organization that Irene also has been considering. These characters are well drawn and interesting and it is rather disappointing, therefore, that their situations are left unresolved at the end of the book. This, however, is the price the reader has to pay for becoming involved in what is clearly the first book of a series. No doubt Irene and Alice will find themselves colleagues in the WEC, with every possibility that they will encounter Ruth there also. Poor Dorothy may find herself romantically involved with the mysterious 'dapper individual in his fifties with a well-trimmed beard'. The author has also to find a means whereby Alice and the dashing bachelor, Sergeant Keedy, last seen playing footsie under the table in a restaurant, can bring their desires to fruition.

Even those readers who are not keen on the 'series' novel should find this one sufficiently entertaining to look forward to the next.

Arnold Taylor is a retired Examinations Board Officer, amateur writer and even more amateur bridge player.

Reviewed by Arnold Taylor, November 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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