Andrew Taylor’s wonderful “Lydmouth series” moves on, as to be expected, but not quite where I’d suspected…
In a nutshell: the ever solid Lydmouth Detective Richard Thornhill has a past and it’s something he’d prefer to remain hidden and buried. But old colleagues suddenly descend on Lydmouth and Thornhill is forced to face his past again, as someone is out for revenge and Thornhill himself is under threat…
This, of course, is Lydmouth in the 1950s and no plot from Taylor is ever without the complications and twists brought from the town’s inhabitants’ more usual, and unusual activities.
Also woven into this story are the trials and tribulations of organising the annual youth dance; a child’s missing purse, presumed stolen, which also serves as the focus of another tale concerning prejudice; odd behaviour from a long term resident and the crushes of adolescence.
Not only is Thornhill’s dark past an unexpected turn, but Taylor’s exploration of childhood and adolescence is too. For childhood, we see life through the eyes of Thornhill’s daughter Elizabeth who is inspired by a book and wants to be a detective. This took me back to my last couple of years in primary school, so good was the depiction and empathy. For adolescence, we have the conflict of a promise to take girl A to the dance vs a sudden developing passion for girl B, who expects to be taken to the dance. Parents know the honour in a promise, but the adolescent surge of testosterone leads to much internal conflict and creative thought.
It’s a bad time for Thornhill who really doesn’t seem himself at all; and also for his wife Edith, who notices quite early on and reacts with care, courage and discretion.
Where 1950s Lydmouth whispers, Taylor captures its essence yet again. This is a lovely and engaging crime novel to read during dark winter nights.