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It's the summer of 1940, and while the Blitz is killing Londoners by the hundreds, a methodical madman is killing them one at a time. In analyzing his MO, Detective Morris Black comes to a startling realization: The murderer seems to have advance knowledge of where the Luftwaffe will be dropping its bombs. Overnight, Black's comparatively simple case of serial murder has exploded into a complex web of espionage. Untangling the threads will force Black to grapple not only with the killer, but also with a vicious ...
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It's the summer of 1940, and while the Blitz is killing Londoners by the hundreds, a methodical madman is killing them one at a time. In analyzing his MO, Detective Morris Black comes to a startling realization: The murderer seems to have advance knowledge of where the Luftwaffe will be dropping its bombs. Overnight, Black's comparatively simple case of serial murder has exploded into a complex web of espionage. Untangling the threads will force Black to grapple not only with the killer, but also with a vicious Gestapo spy and with the poisonously polite anti-Semitism that runs through the British police force.
Known mostly for formula thrillers, Hyde (Black Dragon 1992, etc.) accomplishes a superb turn with his latest, its title referring to a horrific, overwrought religious painting by the campy British romantic John Martin. While nightly Nazi bombings turn vast portions of London into rubble, Detective Inspector Morris Black pursues a serial killer whose bizarrely positioned bisexual victims seem to predict the locations of the next attack. Is Queer Jack, as the killer is known, a mere monster stalking Hyde's Pynchonesque setting, or is he one of the sexually deviant crew that cracked the Nazi Enigma radio code, and thus privy to ghastly information that Whitehall cannot divulge? The story is complicated by an upper-class Nazi spy lurking among the British warlords, an aristocratic cabal that wants to surrender Britain to Hitler, and the fact that Inspector Black, a quiet plodder given to psychic flashes of insight, is Jewish and therefore mistrusted by his mostly anti-Semitic superiors. As if this weren't enough, Hyde adds a rather labored romantic entanglement, as Inspector Black is seduced by Katherine Copeland, a morally conflicted American spy posing as a journalist. The affair leads to a few made-for-cinema scenes with the lovers embracing as bombs explode around them. Fortunately, Hyde's more-is-more plot, his passionately melodramatic prose (a portion of the city that escapes destruction is "a shadowed, somber limbo in the midst of chaos where the dead and those attending them were safe from further harm"), a parade of historical characters who range from the stoic Scotland Yard forensic pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury to a debauched Guy Burgess and a crisply cool Ian Fleming, and the howlingly campy finish on the dome of St. Paul's, nicely overcome any modest lapses.
Well-researched, relentlessly grim, and remarkably evocative of its time and place.
Posted September 19, 2003
Being an avid reader of Jack Higgins' World War 2 novels, I picked up this book at Barnes & Noble simply because the cover art looked similar to that of Higgins' books. I'd never heard of Christopher Hyde. From page one I was, if you'll forgive me using a publisher's cliche, 'riveted.' Last week,I casually picked the book off my shelf for the 4th time in a few years and figured I'd just read the first few pages - that was it, I never put it down. Hyde's observation of people and places is almost superhuman, like he was some alien looking down on us all and analyzing us. The plot reads like Higgins and Ludlam put together and speeded fast forward on a VCR. An astonishing array of characters (most, with the exception of the main character, Detective Inspector Morris Black and a few other peripheral characters, are real people) and recreaction of real events. Hyde's description of wartime London rings true (my parents were there.) I'll forgive him the few technical errors - like getting his railway terminals mixed up - it's hard to believe he himself didn't live through the Blitz. In 1940, when the book is set, if Hyde had known this much about the machinations of the Britsh Secret Service, the decoded Nazi 'Ultra' signals that probably won Britain the war, the people who wanted a separate peace, with Hitler, he'd have been disposed of faster that you can say 'spy!' What's even more amazing are the revelations about the sexual and political activities of some of the well known people of the day - obviously true otherwise the publishers would have been sued to the ends of the earth! Just when you think the book can't get any better, it really starts to take off with a climax and an incredible plot twist toward the end that will break you out into a cold sweat! This is history, Higgins, Ludlam and Co. at it's best, written with an aplomb an style that would make Joyce Carol Oates blush!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 17, 2003
Posted October 8, 2000
Fabulously conceived, researched, written, and executed . . . A flawless page-turner. Why is everyone reading and praising trash, when there are books like this out there? I noticed on the book jacket the New York Times hadn't even reviewed it--they're too busy prosecuting Wen Ho Lee for the U.S. govt. and reviewing their cronies' books, I suppose.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.