A wayward teenager spells trouble for Divisional DI Ernest Hardcastle (Hardcastle’s Collector, 2016, etc.).
The signing of the Armistice in November 1918 brings both hope and frustration to Britain’s young men. The long war is over and they no longer face the daily threat of death. But jobs are scarce, money tight, and peacetime pursuits a poor substitute for the action many found on the front. While boys from the working class hope for jobs in one of the few factories still producing goods for greatly reduced demand, the demobbed gentry throng to joints like Max Quilter’s VanDoo Club, where access to whiskey and women does little to improve their moral fiber. Still, the VanDoo provides Hardcastle his best chance of tracking down Austen Musgrave’s daughter, Lily, a 17-year-old bent on following in the footsteps of her mother, Marie, who ran off to tread the boards and is currently living in sin with a fellow actor. Quilter admits that Lily was a frequent flyer at his club, along with punters like Oscar Lucas, son of the Irish peer Lord Slade. But aside from admitting that he’s had sexual intercourse with her at least three times, young Lucas can’t tell the police much about Lily. So Hardcastle has to lean on his long-suffering sergeants, particularly efficient DS Charles Marriott, to turn up leads in a case neither wanted in the first place.
Readers who enjoy watching the irascible inspector browbeat his subordinates may enjoy Ison’s latest entry, which offers precious little in the way of detection.