This is the second of Davies’ mysteries set in 1942 London featuring the one-eyed mustered-out-of-service detective Johnny Hawke. The reader immediately wonders at the judgment of the Army as Johnny is left trolling blitzed London for work, while a certain Harryboy Jenkins is out on extended leave and wreaking havoc. Soon Harryboy has picked up and seduced a dispirited Welsh innocent, Rachel Howells, as his moll, and is robbing and killing to his own delight.
Meanwhile Johnny has been hired to find a cheating husband and unearths a cross-dressing villain and his henchman instead. Adding a poignant note, ten-year-old orphan Peter from his last adventure shows up in London after running away from his foster care.
Told in the typical hard-boiled crime novel first-person viewpoint of Johnny, and also the third-person sights of Rachel, Peter, and the vengeful Harryboy, plus a sprinkling of his soon-to-be victims, the novel offers many perspectives on a time when violence can come by land, sea, or air and from enemies within and without. The action is taut, gritty, and engaging, but the story is marred by a too-stupid-to-live heroine in Rachel, whose obsession with a thug is unconvincing. Excepting Johnny and his very young sidekick, almost all the characters behave so inconsistently that the plot, not the characters, seems to be directing the progression of the story.