Shamus Dust: Hard Winter, Cold War, Cool Murder

“Hardboiled History”

A review by Joey Media

Somewhere between the fast-paced action of a 1940s noir and detailed, methodical read-by-the-fire novel, Shamus Dust is a well-researched, engaging exploration of London post–World War II (when “eggs were powder, bread was on ration, and bacon wasn’t even a rumor”), where the bombings and disruptions of the war have opened the gates to all manner of subterfuge and cash-grabs.

According to her biography, Janet Roger cut her thriller and mystery teeth on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and it definitely shows. But, as I said, this is more than just a trope-filled whodunit, although fans of the genre—myself included—will not be disappointed. If you are familiar with Hugh Laurie’s The Gun Seller, it has the very same layer of intelligence.

As a writer of historical novels who loves to do research and create highly detailed descriptions of the worlds in which they happen, as well as a playwright who has penned two audience-chooses-the-endings murder mystery musicals and an Escape Room based on my 1940s Manhattan gumshoe Dirk Manzman, I am well acquainted with the immense amount of work that goes into combining the two as Roger has accomplished.

The historical research really is exquisite, from the Roman presence in Britain at the turn from BC to AD and onward for hundreds of years to the German V-2 rocket launches. There are references to an RKO newsreel and film of the time. It helps to know your history when Newman references “Dickie Mountbatten” (the popularity of The Crown, and Charles Dance’s portrayal, should help) and another character says, “[T]hey charged at Balaclava and were chums with General Gordon in China” (George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series, anyone?). There’s even a reference to a 1927 chess match. See if you can find it. Continue reading