Thursday, 15 November 2012

Book Review: The Black Mile by Mark Dawson

Review copy supplied by author
The Black Mile
by Mark Dawson
4 Stars

The book is available from amazon and amazon uk


London, 1940: the Luftwaffe blitzes London every night for fifty-seven nights. Houses, shops and entire streets are wiped from the map. The underworld is in flux: the Italian criminals who dominated the West End have been interned and now their rivals are fighting to replace them. Meanwhile, hidden in the shadows, the Black-Out Ripper sharpens his knife and sets to his grisly work.

Henry Irving is a disgraced reporter on a Fleet Street scandal rag. Genius detective sergeant Charlie Murphy is a fresh face in the Metropolitan police, hunting corrupt colleagues but blinkered by ambition and jealousy. His brother, detective inspector Frank Murphy, searches frantically for his runaway daughter, terrified that she will be the killer’s next victim.

As the Ripper stalks the terrified streets, the three men discover that his handiwork is not quite what it seems. Conspirators are afoot, taking advantage of the chaos to settle old scores. The murders invade the lives of the victims and victimizers on both sides of the law, as everyone is sucked deeper and deeper into Soho’s black heart.

Based on a little known true story, The Black Mile is a rollercoaster ride of a novel that was previously the most downloaded novel on the Kindle Store.


The content of this book could have been taken straight from today's headlines: corruption in the police force, journalists making up sensationalist stories, scandals involving the great and the good of the realm, a murderer preying on prostitutes in the West End. But this story is based on a true killing spree that happened in the 1940s.

When I first started the book, I was a little bit wary, as there were quite a few newspaper reports and police reports rather than narrative. Was the whole book going to be like this? Thankfully, no, but there are a few other newspaper and police reports dotted throughout.

The story unfolds through the eyes of three characters: Frank Murphy, a Detective Inspector and his brother Charlie, also a policeman, who has always felt in Frank's shadow and a Fleet Street journalist, who was called Henry Drake in the book, not Irving, I think the blurb may have been wrong there.

As well as being a murder mystery, the story is also a character study of these three men and how the case affects each of them differently. Henry wants a great scoop so his bosses won't think of firing him, even if he has added some embellishments to his stories in the past. Frank is at loggerheads with his wife and daughter and his brother Charlie is determined to make a name for himself, even if that means going to internal affairs and chasing after his colleagues.

1940s London comes vividly to live, but at no time did you think you were reading a history book or attending a lecture. It's a story and Mr. Dawson is a great storyteller. The book is gripping, although I thought the pace flagged a little bit in the middle, but then got going again near the end. I don't want to give away the storyline entirely, but let's just say there is a twist and I didn't guess it, which is a lovely surprise for me. Usually I can guess a twist a mile off, having read so many mysteries.

An interesting crime thriller with a twist.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

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