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by Max Allan Collins
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2004
224 pages
ISBN: 0425198057

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

February 9, 1942. London has endured blackout conditions since September 1939. A workman, Peter Rushing, engaged in filling potholes in Marylebone, runs out of sand. He figures he could "borrow" some from a nearby brick shelter, but when he opens the door of the shelter, he finds the body of a woman. Leaving his helper to guard the corpse, Rushing phones the police.

DCI Edward Greeno, CID, Scotland Yard, previously a member of the Flying Squad (The Sweeney), now with the Murder Squad, calls for Sir Bernard Spilsbury who determines that the woman had been choked by a left-handed man. The scene reminds Greeno and Spilsbury of an earlier murder, that of Maple Church, a Soho prostitute.

Agatha Christie Mallowen, working in the hospital dispensary as a pharmacist, works with Spilsbury. Together they determine that there is a serial killer who mutilates his victims, much as did Jack the Ripper over 50 years earlier.

This is the second Collins book I have read. I was unable to finish the first one I tried, but so many people rave about his work that I had to try another. London during wartime was a fascinating place. The citizens put up with more than any normal person should have to, and even after the war, rationing continued well into the 1950s.

But on reading this book, one gets no feeling for London, or the lives of the ordinary citizens. What Collins did was research the lives of Sir Bernard Spilsbury and Agatha Christie, and melded them using real names. He should have read a few books about The Blitz and the conditions in wartime London, and perhaps even visited the city for a few days. This is just another facile book. I wouldn't recommend it but if you are a Max Allan Collins fan, go for it.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, April 2004

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