THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER by Sally Spencer
Severn House, 2001
Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend is booted out of Scotland Yard and sent to the 'provinces' where he is immediately assigned the case of a murdered policeman. Determined not to give the outsider with the reputation for being difficult any advantages, Woodend's new boss saddles him with a female Detective Sergeant determined to interpret anything he says as a sexual advance, and a staff of detectives willing to subvert the hunt for justice in order to protect the reputation of the fallen cop.
Woodend, along with Blonde bombshell Detective Sergeant Monika Paniatowski, descend into the English tourist destination of Blackpool with its barkers, tame girlie shows, lame comic routines, and close-knit carney community and find themselves cut off from effective work. If Woodend doesn't find a way to overcome Paniatowski's predjudices against all superiors, and to get effective work from the resentful local detectives, he'll fail.
Author Sally Spencer does a powerful job describing 1960s England, from its smokers, its transition from the war years and the coal/textiles-based industrial economy to a modern service economy, and the provincialism that remained in the north of England. At the same time, she has created two fully dimensioned characters in Paniatowski and Woodend. It's a joy to watch them step through initial distrust to achieve something akin to a partnership.
I could have done with a few fewer descriptions of Woodend's cigarette of choice (Capstan Full Strength), and found the first chapter a little distracting but once I got into this story, I couldn't put it down.
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