Move over, 007. Veteran thrillermeister Gardner (Day of Absolution, 2000, etc.) launches his new series with an entertaining retro-ride to London during the Blitz. It’s the first of six to feature charmingly cheeky Detective Sergeant Suzie Mountford and her struggle for legitimacy in a world defined by unabashed male chauvinism. DCI Harvey, for instance, wants Suzie to make the tea, do the typing, and leave the actual sleuthing to them as was born to it. It’s what she’s used to, and she’s prepared to grin and bear it since, for reasons not entirely clear even to herself, a copper’s life is what she’s set on. With the arrival of elegant, enlightened Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Livermore, however, Suzie suddenly finds herself actively involved in a major homicide investigation: the brutal murder of a well-known BBC personality. At first, she attributes the new assignment to the manpower shortage. But there’s more to it than that. DCS Livermore, an authentic visionary, sees a department in which women work with men as colleagues rather than on sufferance and has hand-picked Suzie for service in his gender-bending vanguard. He just plain likes Suzie—likes her a lot, though probably not as much as she likes “Dandy Tom, the lovely Detective Chief Superintendent” with whom she acknowledges herself “besotted.” Romance established, then duly sublimated, the two buckle down efficiently to catch a crafty, elusive serial killer.
The overlong saga inevitably sags here and there, but Suzie’s all-out pursuit of a sociopathic villain, a meaningful career, and someone to take her virginity is a delight.