Ferris, Gordon - 'Truth Dare Kill'
Danny McRae, a former Glasgow policeman has been out of the army for several months in December 1945, but he carries a number of injuries from his time in the forces. He is trying to work as a private investigator in London but the work is very thin on the ground and he is living a hand to mouth existence in the very tough economic conditions of the time with food rationing still in place. Following his placing of an advert in the personal column on the front page of The Times a posh young lady calls at his office and explains that she would like to use his services to try to locate her former boyfriend. Surprisingly, she says, she believed she'd accidentally killed him in a flat in Pimlico that was destroyed when an unexploded bomb actually went off. She explained that her name was Kate Graveney and her boyfriend was a Major Tony Caldwell. She further explained that when the bomb exploded, she was knocked unconscious and came around in hospital and was in no fit state for some time to wonder what had happened to her boyfriend. Now she wants McRae to search for him and he agrees to take on the case as she will pay him a week's money of £100 up-front.
McRae knew Major Caldwell from his military service. McRae had been drafted into the Special Operations Executive (which was the wartime precursor to MI6) from the regular army and had been promoted from sergeant to a captain. He'd been reporting to Caldwell and when he had completed his training, in 1944, had parachuted into enemy occupied France to help organise the resistance. Unfortunately, during a skirmish he had been shot in the head and was subsequently captured by the Germans and had ended up in Dachau Concentration Camp. The injuries to his head were severe and he had very little memory of his time in France and suffered what we now call post traumatic stress syndrome with horrific dreams and flashbacks which were simply appalling. Just before he had been shot and then caught by the Germans he had been in company with Caldwell.
McRae keeps being troubled by a very aggressive police detective who objects to him working as a private detective and he attempts to pin some murders that have been happening in London at the time onto him. McRae keeps trying to check out his client's story and searches for any record of Major Caldwell's death. McRae has some contacts and uses them when he feels physically up to actually working as the head injury is a constant source of pain and discomfort. The flashbacks to the war are an important part of the story and I was reminded of the similar stories by Charles Todd, although that author was writing of the Great War not the Second World War.
This multifaceted story is written in a manner where you get the story of McRae searching for Major Caldwell and trying to establish who might be responsible for various murders sandwiched in between episodes of McRae's wartime horrors and whilst this can be irritating they do come together in the conclusion. There is also the story of McRae trying to see a psychiatrist about his injuries and the mayhem that causes him.
This is the first title in the "Danny McRae" series and was first published in 2007 by Creme de la Crime. The author has written another book in this series and has begun a new series featuring "Douglas Brodie". I thought this book was quite outstanding, with vivid characterisations and is very evocative of the 1940s with its setting in a peacetime still lived under difficult wartime food rationing conditions. The author has done some very detailed research. It was quite a short book but the author seems pack more into a few pages than lesser writers can do in a few hundred. I will certainly look out for more books by this excellent author. The kindle version of this title was the best selling No 1 on the Amazon 2011 second quarter and has already sold 50,000 copies in that format alone.
Terry Halligan, England