The Covent Garden Murder (Blitz Detective, 8)

Written by Mike Hollow
Review by Douglas Kemp

Detective Inspector John Jago returns for the eighth installment in the highly compelling Blitz Detective series. As London prepares for a gloomy and austere Christmas in December 1940, afflicted by the frequent and punishing German air raids, professional comedian Ron Radley is murdered in the empty Prince Albert Theatre in central London. Jago and his assistant, Detective Constable Peter Cradock, are given the task of solving the murder. The plot follows a detailed and painstaking police procedural as Jago interviews a number of witnesses – family and professional colleagues of Radley – to build up a gradual picture of his decidedly mixed history and more recent dissolution as he fell upon harder times with a debilitating alcohol problem. Meanwhile, Jago wrestles with the constant question of doing his duty after a lifetime of service and examines his principles with the clarity and honesty that the reader comes to expect from this capable and conscientious detective.

The historical context is impeccable and well-researched, and Mike Hollow writes credible and engaging dialogue, if just a little repetitive at times. The damage to the fabric of the capital, as well as the daily impact it had upon the lives of its citizens as they attempted to go about their quotidian tasks, are portrayed with perception and authenticity. The snail-pace relationship with the American journalist Dorothy Appleton is on the back burner for most of the novel, but there is a flame of intimacy to keep the liaison on track.