I know Maureen Jennings' name. I know she's Canadian. I know she's an award winning author. I know that the television series The Murdoch Mysteries is based on her best selling historical detective series. (I've watched every episode - and season six starts in January '13.) But, I have never physically read a book by Jennings.....until now....and I wish I had done so sooner!
Her latest novel is Beware This Boy - the second book featuring Detective Inspector Tom Tyler. The setting is England in 1940 - and the war has begun.
Tyler is called in to Birmingham to investigate a fatal accident at a munitions factory. But, is it an accident? As he questions the staff, he begins to think not. A young American film maker may not be who he says he is. Could one of the staff have their own agenda? Are there conspirators amongst them? In addition to Tom's inquiries, there are secondary storylines involving an AWOL soldier, his family and more. But all have ties to the factory in one way or another.
There are many characters populating this book, but each personality serves a purpose and is richly and distinctly drawn. Every one has their own story, yet plays a larger part in the overall plot. The Abbott family was a standout for me - especially nurse Eileen. I quite like Tom and his quiet, thoughtful manner of investigation.
The time period is beautifully captured as well. The stalwart attitudes, courage, the sense of duty, the politeness and social mores of the day but the dark side of war as well. Living day to day with bombing, rationing, uncertainty, death and loss.
The 'whodunit' is not overly complicated and we're privy to more knowledge than Tom early on, but this really didn't matter. It was Jennings's characters and storytelling that were standouts for me.
Beware This Boy was a rich, full, satisfying read all 'round on so many levels. Definitely recommended. Read an excerpt of Beware This Boy. Although this is the second book of a trilogy, I was able to enjoy Beware This Boy on its' own. There were allusions to a past case, but it didn't detract from this story. If anything, it only encouraged me to hunt down the first book - Season of Darkness.
In the author's notes, Jennings shares the origins of the title.
"The title of this book is from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. When the Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Ebeneezer Scrooge, he reveals two wretched children who have been sheltering inside his robe. They are the children of Man, says the Spirit. 'This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of both of them...but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom unless the writing be erased."
I'm not sure if there are more books using this time period as a setting lately or I'm just discovering them. (Anne Perry, Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear) But I am really enjoying them. If you do as well, put Jennings on your list. Beware This Boy was also the inspiration for the television series The Bomb Girls.