John Gardner






Allison & Busby, This edition first published: January, 2007
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Itís 1944 and England is at war. People are having to make sacrifices and face hardship, with just about everything rationed. However, there are opportunities, and Suzie Mountford has made the most of one that would not have presented itself had there not been a war. Because there are so many men away at the war, women are allowed to join the police force. Suzie has reached the rank of WDS (Woman Detective Sergeant). She works with her boss, Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Livermore, who is also her lover.

The tortured bodies of an officer in the Glider Regiment and the wife of another officer are found in circumstances which suggest they have been having an affair. Tommy and Suzie are called in to investigate. Things become complicated when a former schoolmate of Tommyís turns up. Curry Shepherd is now a member of the intelligence service and he believes there is something sinister behind these deaths.

The officer is a member of a planning committee for a very hush-hush plan to invade France: Operation Overlord. Curry believes that the officer was tortured and murdered in an attempt to extract information from him. He also believes that there is a spy in their midst. Much to Tommyís chagrin, Curry organises for Suzie to be seconded to the Intelligence Service to assist him. While Tommy is unhappy about this, Suzie isnít. Things have been rocky between and Tommy lately and Suzie finds herself very attracted to the handsome Curry.

In the authorís note at the beginning of the book, John Gardner readily admits that the plot is one that has been tackled by a number of authors before him. And therein lies part of the problem I had with TROUBLED MIDNIGHT. It has been done before and the author brought nothing new to the concept. The plot is somewhat flimsy. Much of the book is taken up with the relationships between Curry, Tommy and Suzy; mostly in the form of them sniping at one another because of the sexual tensions.

It is clear that the author is very knowledgeable about the time period. However, the means of imparting it feels clunky and doesnít fit seamlessly into the plot. At times it felt as if the reader was just being given information because the author knew it. For instance, one character used slang which necessitated the author explaining where that slang came from, the name of the radio show that coined it and a little about that radio show itself. It was just too much extraneous information.

The author, John Gardner, is by no means a new hand at writing. He has a number of series to his credit. In fact, he was approached by the estate of Ian Fleming to write a number of 007 novels after Flemingís death. The authorís forte is spy and espionage novels and perhaps he is at his best staying within that genre. TROUBLED MIDNIGHT was a disappointingly lacklustre novel.

TROUBLED MIDNIGHT is the fourth in the Suzie Mountford series.

Feb 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem


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