The Second Woman
In 1881 Russian Jews were placed in the Pale of Settlements, Pilzna, during the pogroms. Thirteen children in hiding were betrayed and burned to death. Twenty years later, Harold Denton, an American author living in England, learns from his friend Hench Rose about the formation of a new secret intelligence agency. He returns to his East London terraced home, but is barred from entering by the police because a woman’s body has been found wrapped in tarpaulin behind his garden shed.
His lover, Janet Stringer, lives in the house opposite, which is accessed by a connecting gate. She sub-lets the lower rooms of her house to a Jewish doctor, whom she had assisted at an operation he conducted at the premises that morning. It is assumed that the body is that of his patient, but it is that of another woman.
Denton and the Jewish owner of a gymnasium receive burns from an arson attack. as anti-Semitic feelings and Pro British sympathisers are polarising in the area as Herzl, the leader of the World Zionist Congress negotiates with the government to settle half a million Jews in Ugandan territories. An anti-Zionist group wants to stop him. The Special Branch are watching lodging houses after receiving information that a Russian anarchist, Gowarcz plans to blow up the Charrington Street base for the new intelligence service.
Denton unravels the second woman’s identity, finds the link to the atrocity at Pilzna, and discovers who sent the thugs to attack him. In a race against time Denton tries to thwart Gowarcz’s plans but in the enquiry into the aftermath he lies to protect two people.
This is no dry, stuffy, repressed Edwardian depiction of events. There are beautiful, concise and accurate descriptions, comedy scenes and credible characters in this novel, which skilfully combines mystery and history.