The War Widow (A Billie Walker Novel)
The first volume in a new series by Tara Moss provides a splendid introduction to 1946 postwar Sydney, Australia, and gutsy female private investigator Billie Walker. Billie carries a gun, drinks champagne, and smokes, all behaviors 21st-century readers expect but which surprise her contemporaries who prefer pre-war decorum. She is surrounded by shadows: there’s Jack, her missing and assumed dead war photographer husband, and her deceased PI father, whose office she reopened after her return from working as a war journalist in Europe.
Her current case takes her back into a battle mindset when an immigrant’s son goes missing with only a few tantalizing—and dangerous—clues to his disappearance. Billie is ably assisted by Sam Baker, a wounded veteran who is not put off by working for a strong woman; she spars with Detective Inspector Hank Cooper as they both work on the case from different angles.
Moss creates a believable world inhabited by interesting characters, from Billie’s baroness mother to John Wilson, the elevator attendant in her office building. A subplot involving an Aboriginal friend, Shyla, reveals the stark class differences of the time, and adds further depth to an already complex set of cultural mores in the narrative. While the action and the cars are fast, Moss takes the time to include nuanced details about architecture, dress, and furniture of the period, making every scene vivid and believable. The setup is ripe for Walker to take on more cases, and for readers to get to know these very enjoyable characters better as the series continues.