Monday, November 29, 2010

Second Violin

Second Violin: An Inspector Troy Thriller
by John Lawton
Atlantic Monthly Press
November 2007

Second Violin is chronologically the first novel in the Inspector Troy mystery series. The series is set in London in the late 1930’s into World War II. Let me say right off there is very little mystery in this book. About three quarters of the way through the story we become aware that someone is murdering rabbis in London. The investigation is somewhat vague, there are a myriad of suspects and in the end no conclusion. Rather this story is a character study of a number of Brits and some Jewish immigrants who end up in London at the beginning of the war. The main characters are part of the Troy family, the patriarch Alex emigrated from Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century and has become a peer of the realm due to his success in the newspaper business. He has two sons, Rod a newspaper man and Frederick a Scotland Yard detective. Alex interacts with the great historical figures of the day – Churchill, Freud and others. His sons interact with Londoners of all classes- from the nobility to Jewish immigrants in the East End.

The story begins in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss. The description of the persecution of Austrian Jews is harrowing. The escape of one Jew (Josef Hummel) is gripping and I found myself hanging on every word hoping for the best. The scene then shifts back to England where German/Austrian immigrants are interred on the Isle of Man and the Battle of Britain commences. One Troy brother is rounded up with the Isle of Man detainees (he was born in Vienna and was not naturalized as a British citizen) and the other brother investigates the rabbi killings during the Blitz. Again descriptions of the bombing in London and the fear and danger experienced by the people are mesmerizing.

So in summary I would recommend this book but not as a mystery thriller. Those interested in World War II, London and a character study of people who lived through these events would be rewarded reading this book.

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