Amazon US $5.54 $18.50
Amazon CA $20.35
This title was selected as the June Book of the Month
I'm not drawn to World War II stories, but I did very much enjoy this one. The story is set in a sleepy Cornish fishing village where the locals have long memories and resent intruders into their world. They know the war is happening around them and they are thankful that its effects on them are far less severe than other places nearby. For them it is rationing and the transferal of the village's big house into a school that are the most noticeable alterations, but a stoic lot, they manage, looking after each other.
And then things start to go wrong. A local man goes inexplicably missing without a trace and an odd little spinster moves in to a house that everyone is sure would never be sold out of the family or even rented. The outsider who enforces the rationing rules is viewed with deep suspicion by some, sheer hatred by others. And a foreign young man is found in a wood.
Bob Robbins comes out of retirement to join the police force and is assigned the task of finding out what happened to the missing man, Stan Hawkins. Along the way he trips over conspiracies and things that don't add up, people withholding information more than they would usually for a small community wary of outsiders. What does Hawkin's disappearance have to do with missing vegetables and stolen water, an assault on a local woman and two murders?
I wasn't convinced that I would enjoy this novel as WWII is just not my era but I really did. It is an involving story with some great characters. Bob Robbins is a wonderful policeman who knows his job, but has several dimensions that gradually come out to add nuances to him and his actions, his thoughts and his interactions with others. He is not a parody or a cardboard cut-out detective. He is very likeable, and of course you are willing him on from the start.
The story itself is well crafted and details never go astray. So well crafted that even at the end you just don't quite know what is going on and some mysteries will just never be solved. That it is based on a series of actual happenings makes the story all the more eye-opening. It is a grand portrayal of small village life, the goings-on of generations ago that still affect the living as if they happened yesterday, the closing ranks, everyone knowing everyone's business, and strong sense of a community that manages quite well without interference, thank you very much.
Down to earth and sensible, no hysterics, few dramatics, and a delightful old biddy who you just can't bring yourself to condemn. A very good read.
Five stars. Can't criticise a single thing.
© Nicky Galliers
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An American commentator recently said on BBC Radio 4 that the British still 'Keep calm and carry on' after tragedies. It's interesting how this has come down to us from back in the 1940s, when Britain was in serious danger of being invaded. But I think what most 'outsiders' never quite understand is the amount of monkey business that actually went on within the confines of the 'carry on'. And a lot of wartime Home Front escapades were a right 'carry on'. Researching for this novel, and remembering what I had heard growing up with grandparents who'd been through two wars, made me realize what a terrific strength there can be in local communities and family ties. Thank you DD for a perceptive review.ReplyDelete
Sadly we are seeing a sense of that community spirit today on the news in West London, but yes I guess it is all the background stories that often do not get told.ReplyDelete