Dead Ground in Between – Maureen Jennings

A crime novel set in the Second World War following Inspector Tom Tyler as he investigates the death of an elderly man found in a secret government hideaway on a country farm. The fourth instalment in this series but it can also be read as a standalone book. Jennings weaves in information from Tyler’s life well, almost impeccably to the point I might not be aware there are other books in this series; a nice counterpoint to some authors who feel the need to “info-dump” the information on the reader at the start of the novel.

The characters are rounded when the novel begins; this may be due to appearances in previous novels which certainly helped ground me in the novel from the start. I’m aware of war time rationing as many are but, Jennings representations is the most accurate account that I can call to mind in fiction. The relationships that develop due to wartime conditions are fragile and subject to change with the unknown knowledge of whether your loved one is alive or not. This coupled with the addition of possible orphaned children from the Kinderexpress show how deeply all have been affected by the previous war and the current.

Relationships between the characters are tested throughout and Jennings subtext is done so discreetly and well that even with the Constable stating what is happening the reader is fully aware of the situation they find them in.  The further representation of dementia or possible alzheimer’s, I’m unsure which one was present, was done delicately with the family member’s reactions and responses being very “human”, something that I find rarely in fiction.

The setting of the novel and some of the secret government aspects are well researched and add a sense of verisimilitude throughout. The location of the hideaway hole where Mr Cartwright is found brings forth the anxious and tense nature of the time when dealing with possible spies in the United Kingdom and the different “fail safes” that the United Kingdom had.

The novel is short and is spaced over a week, at maximum, as Tom works to solve the death of Mr Cartwright and the disappearance of two young boys. There are so many plot lines working simultaneously (some of which that I wasn’t even aware of) which all weave together as events begin to unfold and new information comes into the light. The novel picks up pace and begins running towards its conclusion. The ending wasn’t what I expected to be. While there was a main clash it wound done quickly afterwards and the murderers motive wasn’t “neatly” explained. While this isn’t necessary in a crime novel I felt that the novel needed it, the plot lines all aligned nicely but it felt loose at the end. With the novel focusing so heavily on justice I thought that perhaps true justice needed to be served.

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