The Canning Town Murder (Blitz Detective)

Written by Mike Hollow
Review by Douglas Kemp

Detective Inspector John Jago is back (the second in the series) in another wartime murder investigation in London’s East End. The body of a 30-year-old woman, Mary Watkins, is found on a new bomb site, though the evidence strongly suggests she was murdered rather than killed in the night’s air raid. Jago is called in to lead the case, again with the assistance of young Detective Constable Cradock. Investigations are hampered by the near-nightly air raids, and the disruption to both sleep and the physical damage to the streets that this causes. Mary Watkins had been working for a local engineering firm that was engaged with some highly classified war work, and there are indications that her death may be involved with her work there; the American reporter Dorothy Appleton is still on the scene, causing some emotional turmoil in Jago, an established bachelor, and she is interested in reports of the fifth column activities working against the British war effort. There are indications of the dissatisfaction with the war amongst elements of the population in that part of London and some sympathy with the stability and economic success that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime have seemingly brought to Germany, with questions as to why the country is involved in another ruinous war so soon after the disasters of the 1914-18 conflict. Jago uncovers a mare’s nest of deceit and duplicity, where the war conditions provide opportunities for those so-minded to take advantage of the conditions for their own profit.

Jago & Cradock are developing into the model of the classic detective duo – the youthful Cradock trying to make sense of the loose ends and coming up with all sorts of possibilities that the reader may well generate, while the more experienced John Jago provides context and the voice of reason. As with the first book in the series, the narrative is excellent with plotting tight – a delight to read.