Retiring Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend (Dying Fall, 2008, etc.) reminisces about his first case: the murder of a black teenager that no one wanted solved.
As they wait in the buffet of the Whitebridge railway station for the train that will take him on the first leg of his journey to retirement in Spain, Woodend tells his protégée Monika Paniatowski about the first case he solved in London. When they demob at the end of World War II, his commanding officer, Major Cathcart, recommends the young sergeant to the Metropolitan Police Force. Soon, Lancaster-bred Woodend is in an office overlooking Victoria Embankment under the command of DCI Bentley. Too lazy to view a dead body, he sends Woodend to investigate the slashing of 16-year-old Pearl Jones, of African descent, who lived in downbeat Canning Town but studied at a poncy prep school thanks to a scholarship from the mysterious Meadows Trust. Everyone warns Woodend off the case, from the constable whose rude description of the body sickens him, to shady pub owner Greyhound Ron Smithers, who sends a couple of hard boys to persuade him to ease off, to the mysterious voice on the phone warning that “somefink very nasty could ’appen” if he keeps on. But keep on he does, the first step in nearly a quarter-century of flouting authority and solving crime.
Woodend fans should cherish this finale, which rounds out the professional career of Lancaster’s favorite subversive while paving the way for further adventures on the sunny Mediterranean.