1 November 2011

Review: THE DARK LADY, Sally Spencer

  • Published Severn House Large Print 2000
  • 319 pages
  • ISBN 0-7278-7055-6
  • Source: my local library
Publisher's Blurb

The night after the mysterious appearance of the legendary Dark Lady on the road outside Westbury Park, a German efficiency expert, Gerhard Schultz, is found battered to death in the woods and Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend is faced with his most puzzling case yet.

Why did Schultz seem so frightened when on his colleagues mentioned the legend of the Dark Lady? Did the workers at the BCI chemical factory - many of whom are known to hate the Germans - have anything to do with his death? How could Fred Foley, the tramp whose bloodstained overcoat was found close to the scene of the crime, have completely disappeared? And is this murder connected with one which occurred in Liverpool nearly twenty years earlier?

My take

This is #4 in the Inspector Woodend series. THE DARK LADY begins with a prologue set on the Liverpool docks in November 1946, in which a man who appears to have been a German soldier is murdered.The war is only recently ended and most of the investigating police team believe, like most of the British population still does, that the only good German is a dead German. So little effort is put into solving the murder, or even in finding out who the dead man is.

The book then jumps about 15 years and another German has been killed. This time his identity is known for he is a time-and-motion manager at British Chemical Industries. Charlie Woodend and Bob Rutter have been sent from Scotland Yard to Cheshire to carry out the investigation. The local police force have already decided on the culprit, they just can't find him.

On the same night that Gerhard Schulz was murdered a local ghost known as "The Dark Lady" is seen riding her black horse down a nearby lane. Woodend discovers that it may have been over 15 years since the end of the war, but there is a high level of animosity between recent immigrants: Germans, Italians and Poles.

The author gives an interesting insight to the post-war period, in addition to writing a  nicely constructed murder mystery. For me the Woodend series are becoming comfortable reads. The plots are well constructed police procedurals and the main characters well fleshed out. 

My rating: 4.3

Other reviews of Sally Spencer titles on this blog

4.4, THE SALTON KILLINGS (#1 Inspector Woodend)
4.3, THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER  (#5 Inspector Woodend)
4.4, FATAL QUEST: WOODEND'S FIRST CASE (#20 Inspector Woodend)

4.7, THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY (# 1 Monika Paniatowski)
4.5, THE RING OF DEATH (#2 Monika Paniatowski)

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