John Lawton, Black Out (1995)

(A last-minute review for ´Bogudfordringen 2011´. October = historical event).

This is the first volume of the British Frederick Troy series.

“The fat boy stared, anxious to believe what he could see clearly for the first time. The shaggy hound had handed him the ragged stump of a human arm.”

Frederick Troy struggles to solve crime in London during the war, in a period when whole streets are ruins, and when old men ´give him the white feather´ of cowardice because he is not fighting for his country abroad. As the book shows, London is in desperate need of intelligent and courageous policemen who never surrender.

The story is well-written, and I enjoyed it whenever I recognized one of the allusions to British literature:

“Pym was running rapidly to seed and looked as though he meant to enjoy every moment and ounce of it. Somewhere in his attic was a portrait that was forever young.

I was also reminded of the ´London particulars´ I remember from e.g. Lord Peter Wimsey stories:

“The smog took on the characteristic yellow hue of a killing cloud.”

So Lawton serves a satisfactory mystery with many points in its favour, and an interesting protagonist. If I had been fond of plots including war, spies and international intrigues, I would have loved it. As it is, I can appreciate his skill and good handwork, but this is not really a series for me.

I bought the book myself.

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in Bogudfordringen 2011, British, John Lawton, review, review 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to John Lawton, Black Out (1995)

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Dorte – Thanks for such a fine review. I know just what you mean about the references in this series :-). I have to say that this is a series for me. I like the Troy character, and although like you, I’m not too keen on some of the spy novels out there, this series has a lot of appeal. Both your review and your reminder of it are a treat for me.

  2. Care says:

    Ya know, I was just thinking about how many books I’ve read that are set in London – probably more than any other city in the world. I probably should try and avoid London books! 😉

  3. Norman says:

    Dorte- that London smog reminds me of my youth. 😉 But Bristol used to have fog as well I once back in the 1970s drove through the centre past the Crime Fest hotel and never realised it.
    The Troy series is a brilliant social history of England from the 1930s to the 1960s.

  4. Barbara says:

    I do like mysteries and other novels set in wartime settings, so I’m going to look for this series. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Dorte H says:

    Margot: I am glad that you liked my review; I can see the potential in it, and the language was a treat.

    Care: well, I enjoyed the London aspect of it, just not the spies and conspiracy.

    Norman: I am glad I have only visited London after that time – I want to live forever 😉
    I know that you like Lawton, and I can see why.

    Barbara: I knew that my intelligent readers would be able to figure out if this series was for them or not!

  6. Kelly says:

    I’m not much into spies or international intrigue, either, but I really like the cover on this book!

  7. I like the cover too – but my one foray into this series wasn’t quite to my liking so like you I think I’ll just add it to the ‘not for me’ pile. Frankly it’s nice not to have another ‘must read’ series

  8. Dorte H says:

    Kelly: the cover is definitely a plus.

    Bernadette: you have a good point there 😉

  9. kathy d. says:

    I don’t think this series is for me either, as I don’t like spies and international conspiracies, except I know I should read John Le Carre’s books, at least one or two. My father liked his books.
    And I can get along without reading about WWII, not my favorite subject.
    However, i read an excellent essay by John Lawton about pre-WWII England, the anti-Semitism among the aristocracy and the deportation of Jewish immigrants fleeing repression in other European countries, who then were forced to coexist in the same space as Nazis on transport or in camps. I found this so horrifying that I doubt I could read about it in fiction.
    I wish I did like to read about this period and all that goes with it, but nice, simple murder whodunnits or police or detective procedurals set within a city or country involving local suspects is fine with me. There’s one exception: Mankell’s The Man from Beijing. I pondered the international intrigues here and liked it.

  10. Dorte H says:

    Kathy, it is possible I´ll try some other books of his. He writes well.

  11. kathy d. says:

    Maybe. I’ll keep my eyes out for your reviews.
    I like good writing. I avoid books about WWII as they don’t provide escapism or diversion for me; They’re usually too gruesome, although sadly a true reflection of what happened.

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