Wednesday, 14 February 2018
Dance of Death (The Home Front Detective series) by Edward Marston
Historical crime is one of my favourite genres. It's an unadulterated pleasure and escapism for me. Edward Marston is adept at creating inspired historical crime series. I loved his Bracewell mysteries and the Restoration series, and recently was engrossed in The Railway Detective series.
His writing style is engaging and entertaining, with cleverly crafted plots and appealing protagonists.
Dance of Death is a book no.5 in The Home Front Detective series. I've read a couple of the earlier books, and found them captivating.
Marston's books are well-research, the historical background feels authentic.
Dance of Death is set in autumn 1916. It starts with a Zeppelin raid on a dry, moonlit night, when something extraordinary happens. One of the fighter planes launches an attack on Zeppelin and destroys it. The crowds watching the battle cheer and embrace each other.
In the joyous commotion that follows the destruction of the enemy, nobody notices when a cruel murder is committed in a dark alleyway.
The butchered body is found by a milkman in the early hours. Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy discover the identity of the victim. They are despatched to Chingford, where they make their headquarters, much to the chagrin of the Superintendent Claude Chatfield known as Chat.
Simon Wilder is a renowned ballroom dancer and a talented photographer. Marmion and Keedy enter the world of the ballroom dancing, and behind its glamorous elegant facade it's seedy, ruthless and unsavoury.
Wilder's promiscuous lifestyle points out that the possible line of investigation should follow his love affairs. The number of potential suspects is growing, including Catherine Wilder who is not exactly your typical grieving widow.
Marmion and Keedy make a great detective team. Keedy is engaged to Marmion's daughter Alice who has joined the police recently.
Apart from the main murder mystery, there are several subplots running through the book.
Marmion's son Paul returns back from the trenches, wounded and shell-shocked. He feels guilty for staying alive, while his friends are left dead. His near-death experience makes him a difficult bedfellow, he is rude to his mother and family, and manages to antagonise almost everyone he knows.
Alice has problems of her own. Her bully of a boss in Women's Police Force is not making her life easy. And after a row with her fiance, she questions the future of their relationship.
There were a couple of loose ends, and Paul's story could have been shorter, as it didn't really add to the main events of the book.
Yet if you have a few hours to yourself and enjoy historical crime, it is a good story.