Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad Penny Blues-Cathi Unsworth

Bad Penny Blues
Cathi Unsworth
Serpent's Tail, Sep 1 2010, 7.99
ISBN: 9781846686788

In 1959, with one year on the job as a Police Constable in London Pete Bradley and his partner PC Alan Corbishall find a female corpse near the Thames in Richmond while their superior Acting sergeant Alf Brown snores in the back seat of their vehicle. CID DI Bell arrives to question Bradley on what he found. Pete decides to investigate the homicide in which he had observed at the crime scene how the culprit tried to clean up the “mess”. He soon learns the victim was a West London prostitute, but their inquiry hits a wall as has the other inquiries into the brutal serial killing of the area’s hookers.

Fashion student Stella Reade married Toby. Recently, she has been haunted by horrific nightmares of an abducted young woman who she does not recognize. However, when she learns of the Thames body, Stella believes she can help the police, but hesitates as she assumes they will write her off as one of those swinging drug soaked mod with her school work, a happening mate and their hip friends.

The time and place comes across very vividly though the chapter titles using song names seem inane in a grim murder case that in some ways feels more like a London Noir. Pete is a terrific character as shown early with the wry commentary of his and Alan re the snoozing older sergeant that has generational relevance to this day. Stella brings plenty to the case though her paranormal element is more distracting than insightful. Still Pete’s investigation into the genuine unsolved Jack the Stripper case makes for an enjoyable historical British police procedural.

Harriet Klausner

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