Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Maureen Jennings. Season of Darkness (2011)

     Maureen Jennings. Season of Darkness (2011) I borrowed this book because of The Murdoch Mysteries TV series, which we’ve been enjoying. This is the first story in a trilogy. Set in late summer/early fall of 1940, it deals with the murders of two Land Girls, both of which were accidents in that they weren’t pre-meditated. The girls just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The connection is a German spy embedded in an internee camp, and several more people die before he’s caught. Ironically, the information he killed for is forwarded to Germany by MI5 moles.
     Inspector Tom Tyler investigates, but he doesn’t so much solve the mysteries as stumble upon their solutions. The cast includes his family, his first lover, MI5, the camp commander, a motley crew of internees, several soldiers who survived Dunkirk, and some villagers whose back stories will no doubt be expanded in later stories, and so on. This makes for a rather laid back narrative, and some plot difficulties, which Jennings solves by giving us “meanwhile, the spy is thinking...” and other such ploys to fill in details that she can’t provide through Tyler. He’s the focus of the novel, and we get to know him quite well. He’s a flawed nice guy, with a strong sense of duty, and enough imagination to appreciate the ironies of his life, his task, his profession.
     The 1940s setting is well done considering that Jennings is too young to know it even at secondhand, as I did when we visited England several times after the war. Post-war England took a long time to recover from the effects of the war. The real difficulty with writing a historical novel is language: it’ s remarkably difficult to write in the right tone, to avoid anachronistic idioms and pop-culture references. Recognising these errors diminished the effect of this novel, but overall it was a good read. **½

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