November, 1940. Tom Tyler, Detective Inspector of the small Shropshire town of Whitchurch, is a troubled man. The preceding summer had been a dark one for Britain, and even darker for Tom's own family and personal life. So he jumps at the opportunity to help out in the nearby city of Birmingham, where an explosion in a munitions factory has killed or badly injured several of the young women who have taken on dangerous work in support of the war effort.
At first, it seems more than likely the explosion was an accident, and Tom has only been called in because the forces are stretched thin. But as he talks to the employees of the factory, inner divisions - between the owner and his employees, between unionists and workers who fear communist infiltration - begin to appear. Put that together with an AWOL young soldier who unwittingly puts all those he loves at risk and a charming American documentary filmmaker who may be much more than he seems, and you have a pause-register novel that bears all the hallmarks of Maureen Jennings' extraordinary talent: a multi-faceted mystery, vivid characters, snappy dialogue, and a pitch-perfect sense of the era of the Blitz, when the English were pushed to their limits and responded with a courage and resilience that still inspires.
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Dark story brought to life by expert narrator.
Gripping. Vivid. Exceptional.
The story that begins with an explosion in an English munitions factory during WWII is not only a murder mystery, but a chronicle of this dark chapter in history. You feel the fear, hear the bombs and relate to the devastation and despair that the German bombers left in their wake. The plight of individuals families makes it all the more poignant.
Roger Clark's narration gives this story its drama and its punch. Maureen Jennings is a very good writer, but Clark's rendering of her novel elevates it to a top-notch tale. His mastery of accents -- English, German, Czech, Russian and American -- is amazing. He makes clear who is speaking, whether man or woman, young or old, with subtlety and authenticity. He never faulters in his task - to tell a good story. His strength is particularly evident in a scene in which police inspector Tom Tyler interviews no less than 12 women at the factory. The reader never loses touch with who is speaking. Bravo!
Brian, the deserter. Through Jennings' descriptions and Clark's excellent voicing of Brian's words and thoughts, we understand how war has transformed a decent young man into a brutal killer. His ability to deny his actions makes them even more chilling. Ditto for Donnie, the punk who blackmails Brian.
This was a much darker story than "No Known Grave," an important picture of daily village life destroyed by the horrors of war. Ms Jennings, and her excellent narrator Roger Clark, do not sugar-coat events nor embellish them, but allow them to speak for themselves. The scene in the mortuary comes to mind.
I would buy other books narrated by Clark.