Wilson, Laura - 'Stratton's War'
World War II is back in fashion, at least in the world of publishing, and in particular the Home Front in England has been the subject of many historical and sociological studies recently. Now it takes centre stage in crime fiction.
It is the first year of the war in London which forms the vivid backdrop to a masterful piece of writing in the shape of Laura Wilson's STRATTON'S WAR, which promises to be the first in a series of historical mysteries featuring Detective Inspector Ted Stratton.
Stratton is a realistic, all-too-human character and unlike most fictional detectives, has no unusual quirks, no trusty side-kick, no problem (as yet) with alcohol and no particular obsession with music. He is married, he misses his evacuated kids, tries to get on with his irritating in-laws, likes a quiet pint down the local pub and even has a garden shed to retreat to if he needs solitude.
He is also a thorough and quietly dedicated detective, and he has to be, for when he begins an investigation of two suspicious deaths definitely not caused by enemy action he finds the nightly air-raids the least of his worries when compared to rival gangsters, well-connected Nazi sympathisers and some very shady goings-on within the secret services.
Wilson has tackled a wartime setting before (notably in THE LOVER), but with STRATTON'S WAR she has produced not only an outstanding crime story, but a wonderful historical novel. This is a very well-written, totally assured piece of work showing an author totally confident and at ease with her research material. It also harks back to a style of police work we would hardly recognise today, thirty years before even the excesses of Life On Mars!
My only carping would be with the title, which will inevitably become confused with that other television series, Foyle's War, and the fact that none of the characters gossip about the war news. But then several of her characters are too busy avoiding getting murdered to listen to the radio!
Read another review of STRATTON'S WAR.
Mike Ripley, England
Mike Ripley is the author of the 'Angel' series and writes a regular column for the Birmingham Post.