The White Feather Killer (A Silas Quinn Mystery)

Written by R. N. Morris
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Eighteen-year-old Eve Cardew is found dead, a white feather on the ground near her body, another in her mouth. Hours before, she and other young women were exhorted by a panel of distinguished speakers to encourage men of pure heart to join the British army and battle not only the Bosch in Europe but also Satan. Their charge: to give a single white feather to any Christian man who had not yet enlisted.

Returning to Scotland Yard after a notorious undercover operation and extended sick leave, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn is at first sidelined from front-line investigation of the murder, his Special Crimes Department disbanded and his sergeants absorbed within the Criminal Investigation Division. He cannot abandon the case when one of his men is shot and seriously wounded and CID downplays the significance of the feathers.

The White Feather Killer is the latest in the Silas Quinn series by author R. N. Morris. The first four novels are set in the months just prior to the start of WWI. This one, beginning immediately after Britain sides with its allies against the Central Powers, shows the effects of the war’s outbreak on ordinary people. The war declaration provokes easy excuses for targeting individuals who speak with a heavy foreign accent, whether they are British citizens or not; feelings of guilt among young men who are unsettled about the prospect of facing military action; opportunities for young women to shame men they feel have let them down. It shifts the focus of CID away from finding killers and uses crime to manipulate pro-war sentiment. Deep-seated insecurities are enflamed, duty challenged, false trails pursued blindly. This is an outstanding exploration of warring emotions, both external and internal.