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Black Out by John Lawton

Black Out by John Lawton

It is a wonderful thing when I discover a book I enjoy by an author who has written a whole bunch of books that I haven’t yet read. It happens with mystery novels especially and when the discovery is made, readers like myself delight in knowing we have a number of books featuring the same detective and we can look forward to reading our way right through the series.

I have just discovered a series that I will be reading this summer. I am going to spend a great deal of time on the dock or out on the rocks with Freddie Troy – Inspector Troy of Scotland yard, that is. I’m not sure how much I really like Freddie but I certainly like the books by John Lawton featuring this character. I read the most recent, A Lily in the Field, and then the first, Black Out. My husband has now read them all – and tells me he liked every one. There are seven books in the series, and I suspect that once discovered by more readers, there will be a demand for more. Published first in Great Britain they are now available in North America, although a bit difficult to get in Canada. The first is Black Out, published in 1995, followed by Old Flames, A Little White Death, Bluffing Mr. Churchill, Flesh Wounds, Second Violin and A Lily of the Field. The novels are all set during or around the time of the Second World War, mostly in London, England. The sense of time and place is strong – war torn London, the neighbourhoods of both the wealthy and the poor where Troy investigates. Some of you – of a certain age and experience - may remember Passing Clouds and Sobranie Cocktails – if you don’t you’ll discover them in this novel.

As the novel Black Out begins we have a call made, Whitehall 1212, and Troy is summoned to look at a human arm found by a gang of little boys – much to their horror and delight. There has been bombing in the city but this arm has not accidentally lost the rest of a body. Troy begins the investigation of a very perplexing case. It seems that the arm, with it’s coat and shirt sleeve, including cuff links intact, is likely to have originated in Germany. We are drawn into the intrigue as we discover that there seems to have been another case of a German man found dead on a beach – and another European, a scientist may be missing. Who are these men and what is their connection, if any, to Troy’s current case?

We meet a great cast of characters – Troy himself is a man who seems to care only about his work. His relationships with women are not exactly relationships – and are quite vigorously and maybe a touch too graphically pursued for my tastes. But, oh well, I wonder if this is more a book for men – my husband didn’t complain. The women who spend time with Troy in this novel are fascinating characters themselves and there are any number of twists and turns to the story that leave the reader wondering about motives right to the very end.

After the last page I was very tempted to go straight on to the next in the series, but duty called and there were other books waiting to be read, and I’ll put off the pleasure of reading John Lawton until another day.

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