Instrument of Slaughter
In the bleak winter of 1916, war takes its increasing toll of young servicemen in France. For some Londoners, the enemy across the Channel does not merit personal hatred. That is reserved for “conchies”, conscientious objectors who refuse to help the war effort, let alone fight: cowards, traitors, imprisonment is too good for them. The most dangerous are, like Cyril Ablatt, rational and seductive, a man of both passion and principle. His brutal murder is surely the action of an enraged citizen? Inspector Marmion and his Sergeant, Joe Keedy, cannot take any such thing for granted.
War with its hardship, food shortages and the new, frightening menace of Zeppelin raids is laying stress on the inhabitants, some with the physical strength for cruel murder: Ablatt’s uncle the blacksmith, and Crowther, landlord of the Weavers Arms. Fussell the librarian is young, fit enough and the most vindictive, while gravedigger Horrie Waldron has a foul temper and a handy weapon in his spade. Even Ablatt’s three closest supporters cannot be ruled out.
Inspector Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy have to contend with uninhibited newspapers, an unreasonable Superintendent and a range of liars from wily to pathetic. And ladies’ man Joe has fallen truly in love for the first time. Plenty of sin and secrets are to be revealed in a strongly atmospheric story which makes very easy reading, although the term “stalker” used by a middle-aged woman sounds more late than early 20th century.