"Beware this Boy" by Maureen Jennings
It's November 1940 and war is spreading throughout Europe. In Britain, the Blitz (a sustained strategic bombing by Germany) is underway. Men have gone off to fight and those who remain face the regular occurrences of air raids, while doing their part on the home front to support the war effort.
The city of Birmingham was already an important industrial area in England when the war broke out and many factories devoted themselves to the war effort. It was in these factories that many women went to work for the first time manufacturing munitions, putting their lives at risk for the war effort. And it is one of these factories that Maureen Jenning's Beware this Boy begins.
An explosion has ripped through a factory, killing or badly injuring several of the young women who work in the dangerous area. It seems like an unfortunate accident but the chief of police calls in an investigator just to be sure.
Detective Inspector Tom Tyler works in a small Shropshire town but is called into Birmingham where police resources are stretched thin. Tom is expecting a quick accident investigation but as he begins to talk to employees of the factory he soon realizes that there is more than meets the eye. Divisions begin to appear within the employees and it seems as though communist sympathies may be finding their way in. Add an American documentary filmmaker who carries a secret and an AWOL soldier risking his life as he puts his faith in a shady group of characters and you have a dynamic, page turning mystery on your hands.
This book is the second in the Tom Tyler trilogy that takes place in England during World War 2. While there are bits in the book that allude to things that happened in the first book, this book does stand alone and there is no need to have read the first (though this such a great book, you will probably want to start at the beginning.)
This book is full of characters, all of whom are endearing and heart-warming, even the ones who are up to no good! What I found interesting about the book was the way the characters and the mystery shared the spotlight. Each person introduced brings a new way of seeing how life was turned upside down during the war as well as the strength of those who continued on their daily lives under the threat of the Blitz. The characters are regular people living in extraordinary times and this book is a fascinating look at life during the war wrapped up in a rich, page-turning mystery.
Jennings is a skilled writer who knows how to make a mystery work. Even though the characters responsible are introduced early on, she keeps up the mystery of who they really are and why they are doing this. Readers may wonder if it all has been given away too early (which I did at one point) but it turns out that this is not the case. I had a hard time putting this book down and was left fully satisfied at the end and looking forward to the next offering in the series.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are purely my own.