In this first installment of a new mystery series set in Depression-era London, a private detective with a shadowy past goes up against fascists as he tries to solve a boy’s murder.
George Harley is a Cockney PI who hobnobs with a colorful assortment of criminals and who occasionally uses illegal methods to solve his cases. One night, he rescues a teenage rent boy from being roughed up by attackers in a Piccadilly Circus alleyway. Unfortunately, the boy’s safety is short-lived, as someone murders him in Harley’s home while the private eye is out; the only witness is a neighbor who claims to have been drugged by a mysterious, masked intruder. Harley investigates the boy’s murder with the assistance of an old military friend from the Great War, Gen. Sir Frederic Wilberforce Swales, who happens to be the new metropolitan police commissioner; and DC Pearson, a naïve but upstanding new cop from the West Country. However, deep corruption in the police force and an apparent connection with the British Brotherhood of Fascists make the mystery murkier than it initially seems. As Harley tries to solve the case, he faces Italian gymnasts-turned–Mafia informants, Jewish boxers moonlighting as mobsters’ muscle, British secret agents, and the “Bright Young Things” of the English upper class. Thanks to debut author LeComber’s expert use of cockney slang and other lingo of the period, readers will practically see the city’s pea-soup smog and smell Harley’s ubiquitous Gold Flake cigarettes wafting off the page. The story is pitch-dark, and some decent, likable characters meet graphically gruesome ends, but readers who have a stomach for such scenes will eat this mystery up. They’ll also become attached to Harley’s gruff, growling manner and clever turns of phrase—even if some of them are hard to understand without the book’s glossary close at hand—and pleased to learn that LeComber has future adventures planned for him in London’s colorful criminal underground.
An engrossing historical murder mystery.