A policeman’s daughter is assigned to the police auxiliary of the much-depleted force in Newcastle-on-Tyne during World War II.
Sgt. Joe Baines, who doesn’t think women belong in police work, passes Grace Baxter on to Constable Wallace, who’s come out of retirement, and Wallace hands Grace the case of an unidentified woman found dead in the ruins of a Roman temple. The sketch shows her body lying in the shape of a reverse swastika, but Wallace thinks she just fell that way after tripping and hitting her head on a stone. Knocking on doors gets Grace nothing but some gossip about Mr. Rutherford, who’s fascinated by the ruins and reportedly dabbles in arcane matters. Grace’s landlady, Mavis, who works at the Vickers plant while her husband is away, is the subject of gossip because she loves to dance and is often seen with Dutch refugee Hans van der Berg. Grace isn’t taken seriously until the body of Mavis’ husband, Ronald Arkwright, an ex-convict who’d been busy making contact with his old pals, is found in the same spot. Ronny had been furious to find Mavis with Hans, and only Grace’s intervention had saved her from a beating. Of course Hans is a suspect, and his disappearance makes him look even guiltier. Grace has been making the acquaintance of troubled teens, nervous ladies, and gossips willing to reveal secrets about the poor neighborhood where she lodges. Although she comes from a small country town, the people are not so different, and she hopes that her experience solving a murder related to ancient ruins (The Guardian Stones, 2016) will help her again.
An in-depth look at what it was like in England during World War II and how women took over men’s jobs, leading to a social revolution that continues today. Plenty of interesting bits and pieces, but the mystery is not as exciting as that in Grace’s debut.