SHAMUS DUST | Reviews
Be in no doubt, Janet Roger can write, and write extremely well. Every sentence of SHAMUS DUST is a zinger, every word deliberate and every twist and turn plotted to perfection. This is a hard-boiled book that takes Chandler and Hammett as inspiration and runs with it, gleefully and reverentially. All the correct tropes are present - the down-at-heel, wise-cracking PI, the femme fatale, the labyrinthine plot, the dubious love interest, political intrigue, the underbelly of the squalid city beneath the neon lights of the rich and powerful, romance and plenty of murder and convoluted motives. If you like your crime hard-boiled and cynical, this is a must. Perfect for those who love the classics of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and a great introduction to the style for those yet to experience it.
SHAMUS DUST leans into the noir genre, embracing its hard-boiled private investigator and razor-sharp femmes fatales. The language cascades down the page, brisk and sharp. Roger has created a mystery that manages to be both an original and a throwback at once. You don’t want to sleep on this one.
Somewhere between the fast-paced action of a 1940s noir and detailed, methodical read-by-the-fire novel, SHAMUS DUST is a well-researched, engaging exploration of London post–World War II (when “eggs were powder, bread was on ration, and bacon wasn’t even a rumor”), where the bombings and disruptions of the war have opened the gates to all manner of subterfuge and cash-grabs. The historical research really is exquisite, from the Roman presence in Britain at the turn from BC to AD and onward for hundreds of years to the German V-2 rocket launches. The descriptions of London in 1947 are so detailed they are almost holographic. I was right there every step of the way with the hero of the tale, Inspector Newman—first name unknown—as he tries to solve a growing list of murders around the Christmas holiday. Whether it’s a sleazy tavern or a mansion, the banks of the Thames or a snowy street, the details are crisp and clear. And within these perfectly rendered sets, Newman engages with all the wonderful stock characters a lover of 1940s noir expects to be populating them—the ultra rich, the educated, the distrustful police, the opportunistic journalists, the showgirls and soldiers, the medical professionals and outright vagabonds. You can smell the cigarette smoke and the whiskey (cheap and expensive) as Newman unravels the mystery, paying a heavy physical price. SHAMUS DUST really has it all—witty dialogue, great character names (how about Dillys Valentine?), and Roger is well schooled in the mechanisms for keeping tension, unveiling facts at a proper pace, paying her IOUs, and using techniques like “the Pope in the pool” to deliver needed exposition without bogging down the story.
Better than a good read - treat yourself – Sequels please. It depends on what the reader is looking for in their mysteries and crime novels. If you want the quick reads without a lot of substance to the writing then this book isn't for you, unless you broaden your reading choices. Ms. Roger keeps the reader on track because she stays on track with her plot. Her narratives provide us with word pictures crafted with her talented use of the English language. She certainly has a gift with words. As you read this book you are aware of how well the characters and plot were planned even the narrative As I read it and even after, I marvel at Ms. Roger's writing abilities to convey a story and really enjoy her wordage. There are many turns and twist and in the end it is revealed how it all comes together. It isn't till close to the end that we really are given a clue as to who the culprit is and how dirty the one cop really was. Ms. Roger does not need crude language and profanity to tell her story. This I greatly appreciate. It proves she rises above the rest of the many crime writers today. She keeps the reader's focus on the story. As you read the story, it becomes clear that not only is she talented but a scholar and an observer of life and people. Thank you Ms. Roger for this story. Hopefully, this is not the last we hear of Newman's detective work or of Miss Swinford. Sequels please. (I am not in the habit of rereading fiction but this book probably will get a reread from me.)
Excuse me while I teleport back to New York of April 2020, into this surreal mix of pandemic grief and lockdown amid a gently emergent spring, pink blossoms and fragrant air. My transport is experiencing delay. I’m still walking the streets of war-ravaged London, Christmas 1947, where the foundations of bombed-out buildings, under a light frosting of snow, suggest the outlines of ancient Roman ruins—the key to a puzzling series of murders. Give me another sec. Almost here, still a bit there. Let me knock back the last tumbler of gin and crush out my red lipstick-stained cigarette. Unfiltered. Janet Roger is to blame. Her debut novel, SHAMUS DUST pulled me in and keeps running like a 40s black-and-white film noir on the brain. I’m no fan of categories and hesitate to apply a label or “genre” to this work of art. Hard-boiled, gritty, and atmospheric, yes, but also poetic and literary. Roger confesses a Raymond Chandler influence, and the similarities are evident, but her prose isn’t as spare and tough when she’s in the mood to embellish. There are moments when this book is purely about the writing. While some reviewers say that it takes them out of the story, this lover of language found it right up her alley. SHAMUS DUST is not a beach read or superficial entertainment to pick up when you’re mildly distracted. You’ll need to take this one slowly to savor the language, its sophistication, wit, irony, unique metaphors, and turns of phrase. You’ll need time to ponder the complexity of the plot. The author honors the reader’s intelligence, never overstates, poses one intriguing puzzle after another.
A sophisticated hard-boiled crime masterpiece. I have read a multitude of crime fiction debuts over the years, and they rate anywhere from abysmal right through to astounding. I am pleased to inform that this is another of those rare gems to add to the "astonishing debuts" shelf; in fact, the most fitting terminology to describe this cracker of a book is a masterpiece. It is one of those books I know I will re-read, something I almost never do, purely because the detail Ms Roger's supplies throughout deserves more than the one glance. I also remember ruminating on whether I wanted to pick it up because it takes place at Christmas, and I am not a fan of anything to do with the Christmas season; boy, am I glad that I made the right decision as I would have seriously missed out otherwise. The plot is a real complex, beautifully-wrought beast and grips from the get-go without any problems at all. The various interlinked plot threads are thought-through so incredibly that I was flabbergasted by the intricacy and forethought illustrated here by a first-time author. However, at no point, does she stray into making it too complicated; this is quite the feat if you ask me. This is a book that not only has the thrills and spills to keep your heart-rate rising but the tension creates a superb uneasy atmosphere and the substance and writing is present to back it all up. It's a hard-boiled historical crime novel with subtlety and sophistication lacing its every page. A must-read for all crime fans who enjoy compulsively readable crime and those with an appreciation of beautifully lyrical prose. Unreservedly recommended.
SHAMUS DUST is filled with top-notch writing. Janet Roger does an amazing job taking the reader to post-war London with its bombed-out buildings and seedy underbelly. Her descriptions pack a punch adding to this classic noir story, lending to nuances that informe the reader in character motivations and past experiences. The path that Newman cuts across the city could be used to map of London. Having traveled around the area before, it was fun to see places I knew mentioned, their context changed to a cold, snowy bombed-out place I probably wouldn’t recognize. Roger delivers a classic noir detective story with way more depth that the genre typically displays. The crimes are complicated with multiple motives that made me scratch my head at times. I was floored by Roger’s writing. She sets a mood that is gritty, raw, and unmistakably noir. The narrative revolves quite a bit around an archaeologist named Garfield who is murdered. Garfield is gay and was involved with his assistant at the time of his death. In addition to his ongoing relationship with a much younger male assistant, Garfield also occasionally likes to pay for the company of male sex-workers. Newman handles this information with the grace and maturity I didn’t expect from an ex-army man in the 1950s. Actually, everyone handles this aspect of the case with such anachronistic liberalism that I had to double-check the status of LGBTQ folks in London after the war. Sure enough, it was illegal to engage in non-heterosexual sex acts. It was refreshing to see justice comes for those who would normally be seen as less than and written off as living a high-risk lifestyle and getting what they deserved. It was additionally refreshing to not have to slog through a narrative littered with pejorative terms.
An American private eye in post-war London investigates a murder and soon digs his way into high society’s grubby underbelly. SHAMUS DUST is a beautifully written homage to the classic PI novel and is full of rich imagery and strong on atmosphere.
SHAMUS DUST surprised me. Not because I didn't expect to like it. I start every new book with at least the hope of liking it. But this one hooked me from the beginning and held on tight, page after page. I thought I had seen that this was a debut, but the more I read, the more convinced I became that this had to be the work of an author who had grown in her talent leading up to this wonderfully written story. But no, when I checked, SHAMUS DUST is a debut, and let me tell you, Janet Roger has set the bar quite high with this one. If you've ever enjoyed the rich atmosphere of a Bogart movie, you'll love this book because this author knows her business when it comes to creating atmosphere. The story is set in postwar London, and it's easy to picture from the vivid pictures Roger paints with her words. The whole story comes together perfectly, and I got to enjoy some terrific characters along the way. And here's the thing, this story is set a couple of decades before I was even born, but I still had no problem relating to these characters. They're that well-drawn. The whole thing simply transports you back to that time and place. This is one killer of a debut.
I started reading this book on the Friday before Christmas, it was pre-dawn on a cold crisp morning in a Starbucks near where I work. Yes, the atmosphere was perfect and never before had a book so made me feel more in the moment than this one and its opening pages. The nearest comparison to this is "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens and "Mystery In White" by J. Jefferson Farjeon. What Roger has delivered in SHAMUS DUST is a truly remarkable seasonal crime thriller, featuring her dry witted detective who is cut from the same cloth as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. He is a delight to listen to in your head as you read this book and like his contemporaries, is fallible and prone to getting hurt… The rich and detailed style of Roger’s writing gives more life to her main character, the story and its setting, that if I was transported back in time to 1947 now with a copy, I would not feel out of place and could, by the lovingly detailed
The most amazing aspect of Janet Roger’s novel is the difficulty in believing this is a debut novel. It reads like a story from a seasoned author. Captivating, vivid descriptions, unexpected twists and an extremely well-developed plot of corruption and deceit makes her novel a winner. Roger’s detailed description of a war-torn London sets you in the middle of the action. Crooked dealings by English upper class, the police and the unexpected make this thriller unique. Her protagonist, the private investigator, is a cool, clever customer who tells it like it is. SHAMUS DUST is an entertaining, well-crafted novel. This might be one of the books you will want to read in one sitting. As a reader, I can only hope that her PI, Mr Newman, will be back again.
The plaudits Janet Roger’s Shamus Dust have received are well-deserved, not the least of which are its world-building of 1947 London, classical noir chops, excellent plotting, sly class observations, and admixture of American and British voices. But unlike some reviewers and readers, this writer loves beautifully deployed language, by which I mean breezy yet eloquent, poetically rhythmic and wielded with strong command. Think Cole Porter. Shamus Dust is, among many other things, a noir murder mystery with more than a hat-tip to classic Chandler—more a deep curtsy—yet a testimonial to the saw, “all stories have been told, different only in the manner by which they are told.” “The silhouette of a single-engine Lysander skimmed a fret of trees, silent as a gull clipping wavetops, crossed the Oxford road close to stalling and floated weightless out of a sky dripping starlight. It yawed and dipped over a frozen swell of Quonset huts at the airfield perimeter, adjusted its trim and for a long moment let you hear the whisper of its motor, then glided in over a curling ground mist. It kissed the strip twice lightly…” As we might say in the States, does that put you in the scene or what? It’s an example of writerliness that for me, renders story telling in a strong voice and with deftness. Some readers may prefer crime writing in thriller style—spare, a lot of white space to the page and the forward motion of a dragster, a la Elmore Leonard. Some say of literary writing that not much happens but there’s a lot going on. Shamus Dust gives you both the beauty of language as well as forward motion, maybe not a Ferarri that gets you there fast, but sure-footed and elegant, a well-crafted vehicle beautiful to be in and gets you there just the same.
SHAMUS DUST - Prose so smooth, so sweet, so swinging it will dance you straight back to the 1940s and make you the star of every black and white crime noir you ever watched at 2:00am with a glass of whisky in your hand. A wonderful, wonderful book.
Think Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Dick Barton... It is 1947. It is Christmas and it is snowing. London is still bombed-out and there is a murdered body in a church, and a rather murky background to its previously alive owner. No spoilers; I'll say no more about the plot. Private Investigator Newman is an American living and working in London. He narrates the story with dry wit and a smooth sophistication. And for once in an American-style historical-based novel set in England the Americanisms didn't jar because we see and hear everything through Newman himself as he saunters along a sidewalk not a pavement, uses the subway not the tube/underground. We hear his American accent and American ways very clearly through Ms Roger's clever use of words. And every word that Newman relates to us is relevant. The research is impeccable, the cold, dark rubble of a snow-covered post-Blitz freezing London so real you'll find yourself shivering with the cold and reaching for a blanket. This is a novel that ticks the boxes for a 'who-dun-it'. It has dialogue that is witty, and the essential elements of a Private Investigator thriller: political intrigue, dark shadows, unexpected twists and turns, murders, bodies, suspects. Glamorous women, goodies, baddies, lies, secrets, sordid blackmail, greed, corruption all held together by a dogged PI who won't give up or go away. No matter what is thrown at him.
Raymond Chandler in post war winter London. The amount of detail and research that has gone into SHAMUS DUST is awesome. The author brings London, a few years after the 2nd Pointless World War, into sharp focus, detailing the hard winter, flattened buildings, the attempts at regeneration, and a police force struggling against corruption and opportunism. I worked in London for many years, and I'm staggered by the authenticity of the narrative, which goes into places so thoroughly, you can trace it by the yard on the street map. Add into that a multiple murder mystery, the likes that Raymond Chandler would be proud of, with the quirky phrases, twists and turns and the customary beatings of the American PI, and you have a novel you won't be able to put down. Shame the great Bogart has passed on. When they make it a film, I wonder who they could possibly choose instead (answers on a postcard please). You do have to keep notes on the characters though, because there are many of them tangled together, all with their own agendas, and many turning up dead. The plot is easier, in that our hero, Newman, does have to go through it at various points as new information or characters come on line. The author's only problem will be how to top what is already written, but I am craving for more.
A classic of noir genre! This is how you write a detective/murder mystery to impress me. A proper noir set in post-war London. Very atmospheric, vivid descriptions, I've enjoyed the occasional sarcasm, in other words: I loved almost every single page of it. Brilliant writing style, feeling like a classic of the genre. An array of interesting characters, portraying a large palette of human behaviors and morality. I truly rooted for the doc and the detective to get together (bonus points for the way their relationship ended). Highly recommended!
A totally gripping read that hooked me in from the off and never showed any signs of slowing down. This is well researched, and every word seriously counts with detail on this- you need to be like a detective to absorb everything that this offers you. An interesting time period choice, and an unusual one at that. It worked and created an imperfect landscape.
Lush prose and unforgettable characters make this detective story one of the best I've read in a long while. A first rate puzzler that I highly recommend to fans of the genre. Seeking a sufficiently strong verb phrase to describe my consuming of SHAMUS DUST: Inhaled, Gobbled, Obsessively-Page-Turned-Until-Finished. Got it. LOVED. I loved each delicious metaphor & vivid image, every character in this atmospheric, twisting noir detective yarn.