A Time Gone By

Written by William Heffernan
Review by Steve Lewis

From a writer’s point of view, this is very much a tour-de-force. Switching the time frame of a murder mystery back and forth between 1945 and 1975, and making it seem the easiest thing in the world, is a challenge not many authors are up to.

When a crooked judge is murdered in his home in 1945, Jake Dowling, only a rookie cop, quickly discovered that the political fix was in. Thirty years later, Jake finally has the clout to close the case. There is a definite noir-ish feel to the scenes taking place in 1945. Of course, there is a woman involved, and even though Jake is married, he falls deeply in lust (if not love) with the judge’s new widow, a hat-check girl who’d made good.

Back in 1975, Jake has known all along that the wrong man, even though a killer, went to the electric chair, initiating the tantalizing interplay between past and present. The transitions take place smoothly, meshing into place in near perfection, but the naive Jake of 1945 is better developed than the later Jake. Even as an NYPD chief of detectives, he still seems too callow for the job. But as for the mystery itself, well, you couldn’t have a detective story like this without having a switch or two, and/or a substantial surprise or three, before it’s done, could you?

I daren’t say more. If you’re fond of 1940s noir with an appreciable touch of sexual infidelity, do read this one.