Following last year’s THE MURDER BOOK, DEATH SCENE is the second in a brand-new series of 1920s-set forensic mysteries featuring Detective Chief Inspector Henry Johnstone of Scotland Yard, and his colleague, Detective Sergeant Mickey Hitchens.
In this new mystery, Johnstone and Hitchens are despatched to Shoreham-by-Sea on the Sussex coast to investigate the death of a young movie actress, who has been found brutally murdered in her own home. On arriving in Shoreham, home to a thriving theatrical community, the two detectives discover that no one – including the victim – is quite what they seem, and that the make-believe continues both on and off the stage.
A well-plotted, thoroughly entertaining, traditional mystery, DEATH SCENE shines an intriguing spotlight onto a little-known aspect of early 20th century history. Before I read this book, I’d had no idea that back in the 1920s the modest seaside town of Shoreham, famed for the quality of its light, was a bustling centre of the then fledgling film industry, with a number of early silent movies filmed there. In addition, Adams skilfully depicts a society on the cusp of great social and technological change, yet making it clear that this was a society still hidebound by rigid class structure and social conventions, a world in which the legacy of World War I still cast a long shadow, a world in which the ominous signs of the approaching World War II were already on the horizon.
The brilliant but socially awkward DCI Henry Johnstone and the more pragmatic, worldly DS Hitchens make for a contrasting yet mutually supportive detective partnership; Henry’s awkwardness in social situations in marked contrast to his calm, controlled, methodical approach to investigating murder. The author is particularly strong on the forensic detail, I think: this is a mystery which doesn’t shy away from the grim physical reality of death. Skilfully plotted, the novel offers up a variety of credible suspects, and kept me guessing right to the end. I would highly recommend DEATH SCENE to anyone who enjoys a cunningly crafted, traditional mystery, strong on forensic and period detail, and particularly to anyone interested in early 20th century history.
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