Detective Inspector Jago investigates, uncovering deception and betrayal.
At first glance, the young woman found in the early hours of the morning where bombs have landed is just another casualty of the previous night’s air raid. But when the post-mortem shows signs of strangulation, Detective Inspector Jago is called on to investigate.
The dead woman is smartly dressed but carries no identification. However, a local engineering company reports a staff member has failed to appear at work that morning and the body is quickly identified as that of Miss Mary Watkins.
DI Jago’s initial interviews yield little fruit; no one can think of a reason why Mary would be murdered. But as the investigation continues DI Jago begins to uncover a trail of deception and betrayal.
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.
Fifth Column is the second book in Mike Hollow’s Blitz Detective series. Set during the years of the Nazi bombings of London, this mystery is perfect for those who want an authentic look at England during WWII. I loved the attention to detail that Hollow brings to his novel — from women’s fashion and popular culture to the more serious issues of the nightly attacks from the skies and the threat of sabotage from spies (fifth column refers to a group within a country sympathetic to the enemy). While Fifth Column is the sequel to Direct Hit, it can be read as a standalone. But I recommend you begin at the beginning; you don’t want to miss any part of this great series.
The nightly bombings are beginning to wear on Detective Inspector John Jago. A survivor of the Great War, he never thought that his world would be upended in such a way again. But he has a job to do. When a body of a young woman is discovered at the site of a bombing, it becomes obvious that a bomb was not the culprit and a murderer is on the loose.
Fifth Column has a number of strengths. It is a slowly unfolding mystery that will keep you guessing. There are quite a few suspects all with tenuous connections to the victim. DI Jago, DC Craddock and the reader have their hands full trying to discover just what is going on. Thrown into the mix are blackmarket dealings, pro-Nazi sentiment, thefts and an extortion plot. Sounds like a lot going on and there is, but Hollow allows his detective to methodically and intuitively work through each clue. DI Jago is an interesting and sympathetic character. All alone in the world and with his life revolving around his work, he, nevertheless, looks to the future that seems just out of reach. Other characters are great compliments to the story and to Jago’s character development. For historical accuracy, Fifth Column cannot be beat. It is obvious that Hollow spent a great deal of time on research. Every detail seems just right and adds a depth to the story not often found in mystery fiction. The author’s website is a treasure trove of information surrounding the story and the history of the era.
I loved Fifth Column, and if you are a fan of historically based mysteries, I am betting you will too. A plot line concerning Jago’s personal life is left dangling, ensuring that I’ll have another enjoyable return visit with The Blitz Detective.
Highly Recommended. Please note: this is a British novel and contains some language.
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(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)