On the first night of the Blitz, a corpse is discovered in a van in the back streets of West Ham. Detective Inspector John Jago recognizes the dead man as local Justice of the Peace Charles Villiers. But then a German bomb obliterates all evidence.
Villiers, not a popular man, was both powerful and feared. As the sirens wail, the detective must start matching motive to opportunity – and it doesn’t help when his boss foists an intrusive American journalist on him.
Jago soon discovers the dead man held many secrets, some reaching back to World War I. A lot of people wished Villiers dead – and an air raid is a good time to conceal a murder.
Mike Hollow studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for the BBC and then Tearfund. Now a freelance writer and editor, he lives in Basingstoke (England) with his wife Margaret. A popular poet, his work has been widely performed and has appeared in many collections.
I have just found another favorite mystery author! With Direct Hit, Mike Hollow has written an entertaining and educational (that really is a big plus for me!) novel set during the first days of the London Blitz. Fascinating historical detail and cultural insights, a well told story and a mystery that kept me guessing until the end added up to a book I highly recommend. I am looking forward to more from this talented author.
John Jago is a Detective Inspector (DI) with the London CID. The war hasn’t been going well for England with the retreat from Dunkirk a few months before. Now the Germans are dropping bombs on London, inciting fear and dread in its citizens. Add to the fact that his crime scene is now a bomb crater, Jago has his hands full uncovering the murderer while spending sleepless nights in his Anderson shelter. But Jago is a man dedicated to truth and justice and always finishes what he starts.
Direct Hit introduces us to main character DI Jago. He is definitely a man of his time, shaped by his childhood and the trenches of France during the Great War, Jago is a bit cynical, a bit shell-shocked. A bachelor, yet not a confirmed one, he is dedicated to his job. The list of suspects in this case is long, forcing Jago to criss-cross East London and beyond. I really enjoyed the variety of characters Hollow created — young working class men with communist leanings, upper-middle class businessmen, career civil servants, unsavory criminals, wives and mothers — all with motive and opportunity for murder. With an obvious eye to historical detail and rich description, Hollow creates a very vivid London during the Blitz. I had no trouble feeling a part of the story. Hollow adds an American journalist, Dorothy Appleton, to stretch and grow Jago, causing him to examine his beliefs. There is not an overt faith message in Direct Hit. In fact, both Jago and Dorothy are not believers at all. But both are dedicated to uncovering the truth and seeking justice — I expect them to search for more answers in coming books.
While Direct Hit is genre fiction at its best, it is also a great novel for a book club. There is so much to discuss — historical events, the effects of war on those on the front as well as at home, and just what is Truth. The mystery keeps you guessing to the end and there is definitely a twist that provides much to think about.
All in all a great mystery novel. I highly recommend Direct Hit. Be sure to visit the author’s website for interesting info about the novel’s setting and time period.
Great for Book Clubs.
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(Thanks to Lion Hudson and Kregel for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)