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From the very first cup of tepid tea, it is impossible not to know Tom Tyler. We meet the country policeman in a freezing room, struggling through his paperwork, feeling very much like a forgotten officer shipped off to the middle of nowhere. This is only brought closer to home when the court list, read out by the trusty Rowell, includes a charge of unnecessary travel and cycling without lights – villagers made criminal by wartime regulations.

Yet no good detective novel would be complete without a body turning up under suspicious circumstances, and on this occasion it is an old man who has gone missing and turns up dead in a secret hideout – suitably mysterious.

But the backdrop of war-torn Britain makes Tyler’s job far more complicated. On the outskirts of Ludlow is an Italian prisoner of war camp and the inmates work on the surrounding farms, and when Tyler begins questioning an inmate, a Land Army woman leaps to his defence. So is she in on it? And the two evacuee children who discovered the body seem sweet enough but know far more than they are letting on, and they disappear before Tyler can get to the bottom of their secrets.

And to make things even more complicated for Tyler, his lover writes to him to tell him to find someone else – which opens up another world of trouble for the officer and is in danger of distracting him from tracking down the real criminals.

Although I haven’t read any of Jennings other Tom Tyler novels, or her famous Murdoch Mysteries series which was televised, I certainly will after this one. It was gripping, fast paced, and yet so realistic. It was easy to get lost in 1942 Ludlow and the strong characters created by Jennings, and become very much Tyler’s shadow. A great read in front of the fire with a tumbler of whisky this winter.

★★★★

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