Titled Stratton's War in the U.K., this outstanding first in a series set during WWII won Wilson (A Little Death) the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award. In the summer of 1940, Det. Insp. Ted Stratton investigates an apparent suicide that leads him into a maze of brutal gang violence and bland official evasion. Meanwhile, icily beautiful upper-crust Diana Calthrop tries to escape a hateful marriage by devoting herself to MI5 intrigue. At first, playing spy is fun, but she soon finds herself passionately involved with another agent who may be a murderous sociopath. Wilson convincingly evokes what it was like to sleep in a bomb shelter or stumble through shattered London streets in the dark. The characters are convincing, too, especially Ted and Diana in their tentative, unwilling attraction to each other. Wilson also adroitly handles such issues as the treatment of homosexuality as a crime and the government use of the wartime emergency to justify violating personal rights. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Innocent Spy (Ted Stratton Series #1)by Laura Wilson
Diana Calthorp is a society beauty, escaping a loveless marriage by doing just a little spying for MI5. Ted Stratton is a working-class copper, poking with little passion into the death of a sad, middle-aged woman. In an ordinary world, their paths would never cross, but the war has turned the world on its head. When the two start chatting, they discover they have
Diana Calthorp is a society beauty, escaping a loveless marriage by doing just a little spying for MI5. Ted Stratton is a working-class copper, poking with little passion into the death of a sad, middle-aged woman. In an ordinary world, their paths would never cross, but the war has turned the world on its head. When the two start chatting, they discover they have more in common than one might imagine. Both of them are running up against very peculiar and very solid roadblocks. Could collaboration help find ways around the obstacles?
As the Nazi bombing of London begins in 1940, Detective Inspector Stratton is investigating the death of a silent screen star when he meets undercover agent Diana Calthrop, a new addition to the staff of Colonel Forbes-James, an important member of MI5. Soon their probes lead to Fascist sympathizers who believe that placating Hitler will stop his planned invasion of England. This expert blending of a police procedural with an espionage thriller reveals the danger of trust in the spy world, the naA¯vetA© of young women unexposed to life, and the culpability of men and women who want to avoid war at all costs. Wilson (A Little Death), the Guardian crime fiction reviewer, won the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award for this series debut. Fans of Blitz-era mysteries (e.g., Christopher Hyde's A Gathering of Saints, John Lawton's Inspector Frederick Troy procedurals) will reserve this one.
Jo Ann Vicarel
- Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of What the Dead Know
"Outstanding . . . Wilson convincingly evokes what it was like to sleep in a bomb shelter or stumble through shattered London streets in the dark. The characters are convincing, too, especially Ted and Diana in their tentative, unwilling attraction to each other."
- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Kicks off this new series with memorable portraits of witheringly evasive Forbes-James, based in part on Charles Knight, the real spymaster behind Ian Fleming's M, and family man Stratton, the sort of relative readers would all welcome into their homes."
- Kirkus Reviews
“Brilliant . . . this promises to be an exceptional series. Highly recommended.”
- The Spectator (UK)
“A compelling and wonderfully atmospheric murder mystery.”
- Robert Goddard, author of Into the Blue
“No one does wartime London better than Laura Wilson. Add vivid characters, nail-biting dilemmas, and murder to the mix, and the result is a crime novel with both guts and heart.”
- Andrew Taylor, author of An Unpardonable Crime
“Rightly praised for its evocation of place and period. Everything sounds authentic.”
- The Times (UK)
“Atmospheric and exciting . . . a great book.”
- The Observer (UK)
- Felony & Mayhem, LLC
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- 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Innocent Spy
A child saw her first.
June 1940, Fitzrovia: five o'clock, and the sky overcast. The boy, six years old, had been running half-heartedly up and down the empty street, pretending to be an aeroplane, but it wasn't much good without the others. He'd been delighted when his mother came to take him away from the farm, with its pig-faced owner and the huge smelly animals that still chased him, snorting and steaming, through nightmares. His mother, smothering for the first few days, had soon tired of him under her feet and turned him outdoors to play, and three months on, with most of his friends still evacuated and his old school requisitioned by the ARP, he was bored.
He picked up a stick and ran it up and down the iron railings in front of the tall houses, then turned the corner and, sighing, sat down on the kerb and pulled both his socks up, hard.
Raising his head, he saw a sack of something draped over a set of railings further down. It hadn't been there when he'd run down the road after his dinner, he was sure. He dawdled along for a closer look. It wasn't a sack, but a woman, impaled on the sharp black spikes. He stared at her, uncomprehending. Face down, her dress was caught up round her waist, and he could see her drawers. He extended a finger and poked her shoulder. Under the slippery material, she felt scraggy and bony, like the meat his mother sent him to fetch from the butcher's. She seemed to have two lots of hair, one short, brown and stiff looking, on the back of her head, and the other, longer and yellow. This top hair had slipped forwards, hanging down on either side of her face so that he couldn't see what she looked like. He considered this for a moment, then looked down at the pavement, where a number of little round whitethings were scattered. He picked one up and rolled it between his fingers - hard and shiny. A sweet? He put it in his mouth, sucking first, then testing it against his teeth. It felt slightly rough when he bit it, but tasted of nothing. Spitting it into his palm, he squatted down and peered up at the face between the long yellow curls.
In shadow, upside down, one eye stared back at him. The other was closed - a long, lashless slit like a wound, its outer corner pulled upwards, as if by invisible thread. Then, with a groan, the mouth opened, a black, cavernous O, to swallow him whole.
He screamed. Someone else screamed, too, and for a moment he thought it must be the woman, bent on eating him alive. Then feet pounded towards him, and in a confusion of shouts, gasps and police whistles, an unknown hand pressed his head to an alien bosom. Howling and thrashing in terror, he was carried away down the road, pounding at his rescuer, the single pearl still clutched in his left fist.
THE INNOCENT SPY. Copyright © 2008 by Laura Wilson. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Meet the Author
Laura Wilson is the crime fiction reviewer for the Guardian. Her first novel, A Little Death, was shortlisted for both the CWA Historical Dagger and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original; The Lover was shortlisted for two Daggers and won the Prix du Polar Européen du Point. She lives in London, where she is hard at work on the next Ted Stratton thriller.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In 1944 London, the war that has no end has taken its mental toll on the stiff upper lipped British. In that environment, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ted Stratton struggles with his morale as he conducts investigations into hideous crimes. When the corpse of Dr. Reynolds of Middlesex Hospital is found with head traumas, the initial assumption is falling debris caused a misfortunate accident. However DI Stratton nonetheless digs a bit deeper to rule out a clever homicide. He soon learns Reynolds chased after the nurses at his hospital and allegedly failed to provide proper care to patients who died from his seemingly neglect. Stratton begins to believe a killer works at the hospital, but who he or she is remains just out of reach. Meanwhile Dr. James Dacre continues to pose as a physician though never trained. The latest Stratton WWII British police procedural is an entreating whodunit as the fog of war even in the home-front makes the case that much more complicated. Stratton is fabulous as he os depressed about the endless fighting but diligent about his job. Although the climax seems improbable, fans will enjoy Laura Wilson's exciting historical mystery. Harriet Klausner
None of the characters are interesting enough to carry the story. I will finish the book only to get to the final solution. Sorry, but I deleted the other Stratton books from my wish list. I only wish to finish this one!