Andrew Taylor is an excellent writer. This has been shown in his previous books in the Lydmouth series, with Richard Thornhill as his troubled Detective Chief Inspector in a 1950s provincial town. It is also apparent in The American Boy, an intriguing and well-crafted story set in Regency England and involving Edgar Allan Poe as a young boy. And it is especially apparent in the dark and compelling Roth trilogy. Andrew Taylor (as Andrew Saville) also gave us Bergerac, and a number of other books, including the Dougal series, now being reissued.
In Naked to the Hangman, Richard Thornhill seems to have moved on from his sporadic affair with Jill Francis, the local newspaper editor, to a new source of guilt. This revolves around a period he spent in Palestine in the late 1940s attached to the police force operating in the last years of the British Mandate there. Thornhill got involved in questionable activities which led, in part to the inadvertent shooting of a young Jewish girl, sister of a member of Jewish terrrorist organisation. The past has caught up with Richard Thornhill as the brother seeks his revenge.
The action moves in parallel with torrential rain and flooding in Lydmouth that heightens the tension of the inhabitants, who are soon faced with violent death and kidnapping, not to mention the loss of a purse. There are unforeseen consequences for many of Lydmouth’s inhabitants, and their relationships. These include a nicely drawn picture of adolescent lust, and the tensions of two women living together. We also learn more about Thornhill’s wife, Edith, and his children, especially Elizabeth, who is at the centre of much of the action, and about his colleagues
The atmosphere of the time and place is well caught, especially the social norms and prejudices, but somehow the plot is not compelling and is not satisfying. Perhaps we will need to await further books in the series to find out what the impact really is on Richard and Edith Thornhill, and on Jill Francis – this book feels as though its setting the scene for something. So, a bit of a disappointment, but that won’t put me off continuing to read Andrew Taylor.
Other books by Andrew Taylor:
Lydmouth series (1994- ) – An Air That Kills, The Mortal Sickness, The Lover of the Grave, The Suffocating Night, Where Roses Fade, Death’s Own Door, Call The Dying
Roth trilogy (1997-2000) – The Four Last Things, The Judgment of Strangers, The Office of the Dead
Dougal series (1982-1993) – Caroline Minuscule, Waiting for the End of the World, Our Fathers’ Lies, An Old School Tie, Freelance Death, Blood Relation, The Sleeping Policeman, Odd Man Out
Blaines trilogy (1987-1990) – The Second Midnight, Blacklist, Toyshop
Bergerac (1985-1988, as Andrew Saville) – Bergerac: Crimes of the Season, Bergerac and the Fatal Weakness, Bergerac and the Traitor’s Child, Bergerac and the Jersey Rose, Bergerac and the Moving Fever
Other books – The American Boy (An Unpardonable Crime in the US)
Hairline Cracks, Private Nose, Snapshot, Double Exposure, The Raven on the Water, Negative Image, The Barred Window, The Invader, A Stain on the Silence