Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: No Known Grave by Maureen Jennings

No Known Grave (Detective Inspector Tom Tyler, Book #3)
by Maureen Jennings
Release Date: October 21, 2014
2014 McClelland & Stewart
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0771043291
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

It's summer, 1942, and after a tough couple of years, DI Tom Tyler is making a fresh start in Ludlow, Shropshire. On the outskirts of town, St. Anne's Convalescent Hospital, staffed by nursing sisters who are Anglican nuns, has been established in an old manor house to help victims of the war to recover. After a horrifying double murder is discovered on the grounds, Tyler must figure out how the crime could have occurred in such a secluded and presumably impenetrable place, where most of the patients are unable to walk or are blind, or both, not to mention deeply traumatized. 

To add to the puzzle, Tyler begins almost immediately to receive mysterious letters recounting terrible crimes far away. He realizes that he is not only seeking the murderer, but that the horrors of the war are closing in on this place that was meant to be a refuge.

My Thoughts
No Known Grave is the third book in the Detective Inspector Tom Tyler series and is the first one of the series I have read.  I am actually very familiar with Maureen Jennings however, having discovered her a long time ago when I read Except the Dying, a Detective Murdoch mystery novel.  I have been a huge fan ever since, and since I tend to be a huge proponent of Canadian authors, I have continued to follow the releases of her novels.  No Known Grave was of high interest to me, especially as I teach history, including courses that focus on the Great War and World War II.  

Tom Tyler was a great character and he really grew on me throughout the novel. I felt a lot of sympathy towards him as he fielded questions and prejudice as to why he was not fighting on the front with his peers, or why others he worked with were also not on the front.  Some of the men kept having to explain why they were doing the jobs they were doing, why they were rejected by the military, or why they had to return from the front and were no longer fit for service.  I felt bad for them having to justify to others why they were not "doing their duty" and fighting for their country.  I had to keep in mind that it was 1942, during a very difficult time of the war for Great Britain, and people were suffering.  The US air force had just barely arrived in the UK and Operation Rutter (Operation Jubilee) or more familiarly, the Battle of Dieppe, was still over a month away.  The research was quite impressive, and it was the little things, written so carefully, yet so descriptively, that really made you understand how difficult life was during this time period, and how much people were struggling for the little luxuries in life.

My heart was especially torn for the victims in the convalescent hospital who were trying to rebuilt their lives after horrifying accidents on the battlefront.  This is where most of the action took place, and it was touching to see how these nurses, pilots, etc... were trying to deal with the life-altering injuries they incurred while on duty.  I thought the author handled it all very well and I never thought too much about the injuries after they were described, and it came as a shock sometimes to realize that so and so didn't have a hand, or about the scarring on someone's face as you were reminded about it through incidents that happened.  It made you sympathetic towards them even though one of them could have been a murderer.  And I will admit, it took me a while to figure out what was going on, and who it possibly could have been.  The murders served to remind Tom that even though they thought they were safe from the battlefront, the effects of the war were far-reaching and long-lasting.  It made you really think about how strong and resilient people had to have been during this time period.

No Known Grave was an interesting and thought-provoking mystery set during World War II in Great Britain.  Set during a time period when the UK was really struggling and the US, while it had entered the war, had not yet made their presence known in Europe at this point, and the people were suffering and were on severe rations.  Prejudice was a bit high and pretty much everyone had been touched in some way by the war.  The plot was interesting and moved along nicely, leaving me guessing quite often as I changed my opinion on who the murderer was as evidence became more clear until I finally figured it out.  I like those novels where I don't know who the murderer is right from the beginning.  The descriptions were very well done, and I enjoyed it very much.  I look forward to reading another Tom Tyler mystery in the future.