THE FIRING SQUAD by James Barnett


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By far the best case yet for Detective Superintendent Owen Smith (Head of the Force, Backfire is Hostile)--who once again begins with murder and winds up with full-scale melodrama. The murder victim: former British captain Antony Pyrnford, who (unbeknownst to Smith) has been tried and executed by a kangaroo court--former members of the Royal Army Service Corps, which Pyrnford commanded in the weeks leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation. Only gradually does Smith learn first Pyrnford's identity, then--thanks to an enlisted man's WW II diary--Pyrnford's wartime past: he was apparently a traitor, a drunk who shot one of his own men . . . and later turned up in a German POW camp, recruiting British soldiers to fight for Germany against Russia! Unsurprisingly, Pyrnford's men swore vengeance; and once Smith knows this motive, he captures the kangaroo-court killers. Public opinion is on the killers' side, however: they're acquitted. And only a private piece of vengeance--perpetrated by Pyrnford's sister--gives the murderers their debatable just desserts, in an explosive finale. With gritty WW II connections instead of the tiresomely apocalyptic ones in his other books: a definite improvement for Barnett--and a fair bet for those who like their British suspense tough and active.

Pub Date: Dec. 11th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow