A Commonplace Killing
The war may be over, but London is definitely not at peace in this darkly suspenseful novel set in London at the close of World War II. In a landscape filled with bomb crates and houses partially or fully destroyed, the reader covers a journey with Londoners trying hard, and unsuccessfully, to get back to normal.
What is perhaps strongest in this novel is the authenticity of the emotions of the characters: wives not completely happy that the soldier husband has come home after all; girl friends who easily turn on each other for a pair of new stockings; children so already traumatized that finding a corpse is part of a day’s play. The victim is housewife Lillian Parry, and her crime, if her murder is a form of punishment, is simply wishing that things were different, that she could have a different life.
Detective Jim Cooper must encounter the dark side of the English middle class to solve this case, and author Busby knows how to convey disillusion like no other writer I’ve recently read. There are no fairy tale endings, she tells us. War changes everyone and everything, making this a mystery with an important message. What makes this novel even more poignant is that the author died before it was completed and her husband, who also wrote the introduction, completed it from her notes. There is a noticeable style change in the last chapters, but somehow that backstory makes the fictional one even more compelling. This is a brave and fascinating story.