The Year of the Gun

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Imogen Varney

It is 1944, and at Leeds City Police, DCS McMillan has a murder to solve. He has the assistance of his dependable driver WAPC Lottie Armstrong. The older, rather careworn senior policeman would be retired by now were it not for the war. There are moments when he wishes he were. His younger driver dearly wishes she was still the ‘real’ policewoman she had been twenty years before, and is willing to offer her crime-solving abilities to help. Their contrasting attitudes make them an unorthodox but entertaining and likeable team, as they search Leeds in the police-issue Humber Snipe for clues to the crime.

Many a cul-de-sac, actual and figurative, is explored, usually with no result. Might the mounting problem be now so big it should be handed over to Scotland Yard? Never, responds the police chief. Author Chris Nickson knows Leeds so well he can create a thoroughly distinct and colourful story woven round this lively city, a city which in 1944 has large numbers of US troops stationed nearby. They attract some wariness and envy because they seem to have a way of acquiring the sort of food and goods wartime locals have to manage without. They also seem to be unconcerned about regulations everyone else has to obey.

A gentle romance provides both distraction and complication as the police chief and the ex-policewoman inch towards an explanation of the crime. At times they are dashing to the car to follow a new and promising lead, and at others waiting glumly, hour after hour, at the police station for fresh inspiration. Even as understanding dawns, we are presented with a surprise.

Modern DNA evidence and mobile phones would have made their work so much easier, and spoiled a thoroughly enjoyable story.