The Great Darkness by Jim Kelly is a crime novel set in Cambridge during WW2. There are any amount of crime series set during the two world wars on the market at the moment and I review one of them here. What possibly sets this book apart from other war related crime novels is the quality of the writing. It is beautifully crafted and very atmospheric and although the plot is what drives the story there are many other good historical details and descriptions of the location which enhance the book for the reader.
It is the Phoney War – the time when bombing is expected but hasn’t yet started and the country is preparing for a war that is coming but hasn’t yet arrived. Eden Brooke is a police officer in Cambridge. He suffered injuries in the previous war, including to his eyes, so he mostly works at night. He also exercises by swimming in the river during the night. He has developed a group of friends/informants in the city who also work in the hours of darkness. It is on one of his night time excursions that he sees something that intrigues him. In the morning a body is found and he has to work out if it is connected to what he has seen or if there are other suspicious activities occurring at night.
The investigation leads to the discovery of black marketeering, a government cover up and people who are trying to develop new weapons whatever the cost. It’s a clever plot and the author weaves in lots of historical detail such as barrage balloons with the story. Virtually everything that Eden sees on the first night is significant but not in a way that he initially suspects.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how well it was written and the historical detail. I was pleased that the characters, particularly Eden Brookes, were well depicted. This is the first in a series and I shall be interested to see how the stories are developed in future books.