Two candles flaring at a Christmas crib. A nurse who steps inside a church to light them. A gunshot emptied in a man s head in the creaking stillness before dawn, that the nurse says she didn’t hear. It s 1947 in the snowbound, war-scarred City of London, where Pandora s Box just got opened in the ruins, City Police has a vice killing on its hands, and a spooked councilor hires a shamus to help spare his blushes. Like the Buddha says, everything is connected. So it all can be explained. But that s a little cryptic when you happen to be the shamus, and you’re standing over a corpse.
Be in no doubt, Janet Roger can write, and write extremely well. Every sentence of ‘Shamus Dust: Hard Winter, Cold War, Cool Murder’ is a zinger, every word deliberate and every twist and turn plotted to perfection.
This is a hard-boiled book that takes Chandler and Hammett as inspiration and runs with it, gleefully and reverentially. All the correct tropes are present – the down-at-heel, wise-cracking P.I., the femme fatale, the labyrinthine plot, the dubious love interest, political intrigue, the underbelly of the squalid city beneath the neon lights of the rich and powerful, romance and plenty of murder and convoluted motives. It’s easy to see that the author is a fan of this style of fiction, and this is a labour of love.
There’s murder afoot in London and an American private investigator is caught right in the middle of it when a powerful councillor asks him to look into it. Like the best books in this genre, the plot is intricate and sometimes difficult to follow – as it should be. People lie, obfuscate and double-cross and at the heart of it our dogged P.I. strives to get to the truth. Critically, even if you feel lost at points, by the end the denouement makes sense and satisfies.
This book is almost perfect. There is an incongruity in the setting of the story in post-World War II London where every character appears and sounds like they’ve just stepped out of Los Angeles in the 1930s. Our hero is American and narrates the story, but it’s still odd that everyone else speaks like him and uses American slang. It’s easy to forget this is set in London. The only other minor quibble is the density of the writing. So much work has gone into the writing that occasionally it feels over-written and a simple description would do instead of so much detail, no matter how well written it is.
But don’t let this distract from the overall joy of this book. It has been written with love and care and by an extremely talented writer who deserves wide recognition.
Summary: If you like your crime hard-boiled and cynical, this is a must. Perfect for those who love the classics of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and a great introduction to the style for those yet to experience it. Highly recommended.
Similar To: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer
‘Shamus Dust’ is available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback: Amazon.co.uk: Shamus Dust: Hard Winter, Cold War, Cool Murder
I was sent a copy of this novel to review by the author’s agent, for which I offer grateful thanks.
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