REVIEW OF SHAMUS DUST
Debut author Janet Roger uncannily channels the likes of hard boiled detective authors such as Raymond Chandler in this gritty post war historical crime novel set in 1947 in a desperately freezing, snowy and fog ridden London. The cool shamus in question is American PI Newman, called early on Christmas morning by a new client, a city grandee, Councilor Drake, that has him visiting the scene of the murder of Raymond Jarrett, a blackmailer and pimp, shot dead outside a church, living in a apartment rented out by Drake. His body is discovered by nurse, Estelle Greer, but DI McAlester that Newman is supposed to meet is not there. So begins a complicated investigation for Newman in the bombed out wreckage of a gloomy ration book city, impoverished, colourless, with its powerful elites, and dirty, corrupt, brutal police officers, less interested in the truth and investigation, looking instead for convenient patsies as the bodies begin to pile up.
The small square mile of the City of London is looking to reconstruct and redevelop the financial heart of a Britain in the throes of losing its empire and its currency in crisis. Such projects offers opportunities for the already wealthy and racketeers to enrich themselves further and profiteer, a greed that does not look kindly on obstacles that stand in their way. Newman founds himself negotiating the powerful and influential, including his client, with their secrets and lies. The charismatic advising archaeologist to the city, Professor Garfield, is missing, a man with a penchant for young men, including his assistant, Henry Beaufort, a member of a influential aristocratic family. As Newman finds himself on the end of terrifying violence, he finds help from an unlikely source, the temporary medical examiner, Dr Kathryn Swinford, in his search for the truth.
Janet Roger engages in impeccable research in this atmospheric and moreish historical novel with its diverse skillfully depicted range of characters, its sharp and often witty dialogue, and lyrical prose. For a debut, this is astonishingly good, with all the requisite elements that comprise hard boiled detective fiction, all done with style and panache. It has the political intrigue, the glamorous dames, lies and sordid secrets, racketeers, a morally compromised police force and a PI that just will not give up, no matter the brutal beatings he undergoes or the financial carrots on offer. If you are a fan of hard boiled classic detective fiction, then this is an absolute must read..