A fledgling private detective in wartime London tries to save a wary urchin while solving an unsavory case.
In 1939, an accident on the rifle range costs Johnny Hawke an eye and puts an abrupt end to his army career. With no prospects and a yearning for adventure, he opens Hawke Investigations. An intertwined first-person narrative follows a little boy named Peter as he runs away from his prostitute mother. Hawke takes him in, but the skittish boy empties Hawke’s wallet and takes off in the middle of the night. Their paths cross several more times through Hawke’s first big case, which he gets with the help of Scotland Yard pal David Llewellyn. The Palfreys, a colorless couple, want help finding their missing daughter, Pamela, who worked for solicitor Leo Epstein. Pictures show a plain and conservative young woman, but Epstein’s typist, Eve Kendal, remembers Pamela as a beautiful and provocatively dressed girl with heavy makeup. Epstein slept with her, and she used her sexuality to gain a foothold in the lowest rungs of the movie business, at Renown Pictures. When Pamela is found stabbed to death, suspicion falls on her boyfriend, Samuel Fraser, but Hawke finds likelier suspects when he digs deeper into the girl’s dangerous life.
Sherlock Holmes expert Davies (The Veiled Detective, 2004, etc.) effectively captures the London of a later era in this taut page-turner.