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assassins300Written by Jim Eldridge — Author and scriptwriter Jim Eldridge is probably better known for his historical fiction aimed at the young adult market, with series such as The Malichea Quest, and Badlands. He was also the creator of BBC Radio 4’s comedy series King Street Junior, which ran from the mid-1980s to the late 90s.

Assasins is the first book featuring DCI Paul Stark of Scotland Yard, and is aimed at adult crime lovers. It’s set in 1921, when Britain was recovering from World War I. The backdrop for the investigation is the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations, and the growing support for the newly founded Communist Party of Great Britain.

Eminent politician Lord Amersham has been murdered on the steps of his London home in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the 1922 murder of Field Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson. When Stark arrives on the scene, he comes face to face with a furious Winston Churchill, who thinks the matter is an open and shut case. Adamant that the communists are responsible he directs Stark in their direction.

However, with the treaty negotiations being conducted in London and Lord Amersham’s negative views on them, Stark is aware that the victim had enemies in more than one quarter. Taking the view that he cannot narrow his investigation to just one angle, Stark finds himself talking to Michael Collins – the famous Irish rebel – who is a delegate taking part in the discussions, much to Churchill’s annoyance.

Stark is aided in his endeavours by DS Robert Danvers, a young man from a wealthy background whose father disapproves of his decision to become a police officer. Their working relationship is reminiscent of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and sidekick Lewis – an older DI partnered with a bright but inexperienced DS. However, it’s Danvers’ links with the upper echelons of London society that open doors which might have stayed closed, especially when it looks as though Danver’s own father may have had a connection to the first victim.

The case is blown open by two further brutal doorstep murders, and the duo realise that they need to dig deeper into the backgrounds of the victims to establish how they might be linked. What they discover is a threat that has been floating under the radar of the security services with unknown operatives fuelled by discontent. Stark and Danvers must crack this case before an even more high profile life is claimed, and they’ll come close to the wire in doing so.

This is a story with plenty of twists, turns, and a potentially explosive ending, which definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. The time period has been well researched and this comes through very clearly on every page. You feel yourself being drawn into the story because of the level of detail in describing the settings and the progress of the investigation.

Danvers himself is a man with a back story. Having fought in the War he returned home only to lose his wife to the influenza of 1919. He and his young son now live with his parents. In some ways he’s a workaholic, something his father disapproves of, and it frequently means he can’t always be home for his own son.

This is an exciting new direction for Jim Eldridge, that’s really piqued our interest in what looks to be a pretty exciting new series.

For more 1920s crime fiction, click here.

Severn House

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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