I enjoy reading crime fiction books about World War II. I like vintage mysteries written anytime from the 1930's up through 1955, covering the lead-up to the war and the years following the war. I also read a lot of historical fiction set in those years. This book is in the latter group.
Summary from the back the paperback edition:
Tom Tyler is the sole detective inspector in Whitchurch, Shropshire. The quiet village is also home to an internment camp where many German nationals are being held in this hot summer of 1940, mere months after the disaster of Dunkirk and with the threat of a German invasion looming. Young women from all walks of life -- known as Land Girls -- have come to help farmers during this dark time, and one, Elsie Bates, has just been found dead on a deserted country road, with a German Luger and a spray of white poppies by her side.Here we have a story of a small village in turmoil, with the war increasing everyone's anxiety. There is a murder and many people want to blame the internees. Tyler's investigation is hampered by the possible involvement of his family and friends and the existence of an intelligence group investigating possible spies in the area.
Tom Tyler's home life is a shambles. His son has returned from Dunkirk, damaged and uncommunicative. His teenage daughter is at a difficult age in a difficult time. And his relationship with his wife has never been very good. In the midst of all this, his ex-lover comes back into town, adding more difficult choices to his life.
I enjoyed this book, with its story of a small village in the UK in World War II. The depiction the internment camp and the home where the Land Girls were living both seemed realistic and fit well within the overall story and the investigation. The presence of a murder investigation highlights the confusion and uncertainty in the village resulting from the tensions of the war.
Tom Tyler is not a lovable character; he is selfish and self-absorbed, but he does care about his family and especially his kids. On the other hand, he is not damaged, just going through a difficult time in his life. The important characters were very well drawn. None of them were perfect, which is pretty close to reality, at any time period.
What I did not care for was the love interest sub-plot between Tyler and his old lover. The sub-plot was realistic enough and it did fit within the mystery plot but still, it just did not appeal to me.
As far as a recommendation, I am torn. If this type of story appeals to you and you like the historical setting, it is definitely worth a try. There are three in the series and a fourth is in the works. I plan to read the next one for sure.
Jennings has written another police procedural series, the Detective Murdoch series, set in Toronto, Canada in the 1890's. That series has been turned into a television series, Murdoch Mysteries.
About this author at Goodreads:
Maureen Jennings, now a Canadian Citizen, was born on Eastfield Road in Birmingham, England and spent her formative years there until she emigrated to Canada at the age of seventeen with her mother.And in this interview, in The Birmingham Post:
Her father Bert, a carpenter, died in the war when she was four. He was a sapper killed during the Italian Campaign at Anzio Beachhead in 1944. Maureen’s mother Betty worked as a cook to support the family while Maureen was a pupil at Saltley Grammar School.-----------------------------
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart, 2011
Length: 396 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Series: Detective Inspector Tom Tyler Mystery
Setting: Small village, England, World War II
Genre: Police procedural, historical mystery