A Lily of the Field

Written by John Lawton
Review by Edward James

This is another of John Lawton’s Inspector Troy series of detective novels, but do not be deceived; this is no ordinary murder/mystery. Inspector Troy does not appear until a third of the way through the book, and the murder does not take place until halfway through, twelve years after the opening chapter.

Nor is there any real mystery about whodunnit. The book is much more than that. The heart of the story is the life history of the murderess, from her childhood in pre-war Vienna, through her stay in Auschwitz as a member of the camp orchestra to her career as a Soviet spy in London and the murder she commits on the Northern Line (Warren Street station). The tension comes from finding how Troy unravels the truth and what he does about it.

This is the story of a musical genius and the talented circle of refugees from Nazi Germany in which she moves. Most are Jewish, although she is not. She is sent to Auschwitz as a ‘political’ after being caught sitting next to a dissident on a Vienna tram. So, if you prefer a murder/mystery that is not just an intellectual puzzle and which has a powerful sense of person, place and history, this is for you.