Friday, November 28, 2008

Catching up with British Mystery Writer John Lawton

John Lawton's newest police procedural, SECOND VIOLIN, has drawn terrific reviews and a lot of attention. It jumps back in time within his Scotland Yard series featuring Frederick Troy. So I found myself picking up an earlier volume that's in fact set at a later point in Troy's life: the 1950s. A pair of flashback moments at the start of FLESH WOUNDS signal clearly, though, that Troy's actions during World War II connect somehow with the case unfolding around him, seizing nearly every corner of his personal life as well.

A few strands of the plot of FLESH WOUNDS include Chief Superintendent Troy's near death as his colleague is killed by a car bomb; the determination of the wife of a U.S. Presidential candidate to find some escape from the pressure around her, through reconnecting with a very old friendship with Troy; an endearingly eager U.S. "gumshoe" who tracks the lady, once known as Kitty Stilton, know as Kate Cormack; and the political pressure of Troy's brother Rod, who appears bound for leadership in Britain.

But the book runs far deeper than its pounding plot. There's a complex braid of lust, sin, and tenderness that has Troy bound to the past, tied on such a short lead that he's a sitting duck for further homicide attempts. And how can he lead his officers when he keeps being pushed out on sick leave, even encouraged to take early retirement?

Lawton's family has Irish-American roots, although he lives in the Derbyshire Pennines (in a "hilltop village"). A former television producer, he's now writing full-time. The "Troy" series, where British titles are given first if they differ from U.S. ones, is:

1. Black Out (1995)
2. Old Flames (1996)
3. A Little White Death (1998)
4. Riptide (2001)aka Bluffing Mr. Churchill
5. Blue Rondo (2005)aka Flesh Wounds
6. Second Violin (2007)

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