Five strangers alight from a train compartment and disappear into a Paddington station shrouded in thick fog. Moments later one of them is found seriously injured with his head bashed in, stripped of all identification and left for dead. Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald finds that the young man’s identity is not only the key to finding his attacker, but may be the solution to an unsolved riddle with its roots in the terror the wartime blitz.
I’m a big fan of Lorac, but even I admit that her books are sometimes hit and miss. This one though is a definite hit, and I was lucky enough to come across a physical copy at a good price—ok, it’s a Book Club edition, but I’m not complaining.
Lorac’s plot is very well crafted, and weaves in quite a few plot threads that added to the complexity of the mystery puzzle. As Inspector Reeves trawls the more disreputable pubs of Paddington for the man they know was witness to the crime, MacDonald’s search leads him from London to Reading, and on to Devon. Along the way he unearths not only the man’s identity, but new witnesses, motives, suspects, and an odd coincidence or two. But even with quite a number of characters, and so many lines of inquiry, Lorac is able to bring all the threads together very nicely. There’s also some very clever use of diversion to conceal the identity of the culprit and allow the suspense to build to a first-rate ending.
The story was made all the more interesting by Lorac’s depiction of England in the early 1950s. In addition to a backdrop of, what I assume to be the famous Great Smog of 1952, we get a picture of England with its lingering memories of war, changes in the criminal element, and the generational differences that arose.
This has got to be my favorite Lorac so far, and one that I highly recommend…if you can find it.
My Judgment – 4.5/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza—2014 Bingo—Read one book written by an author with a pseudonym