November, 1940. Tom Tyler, Detective Inspector of the small Shropshire town of Whitchurch, is a troubled man. The preceding summer had been a dark one for Britain, and even darker for Tom's own family and personal life. So he jumps at the opportunity to help out in the nearby city of Birmingham, where an explosion in a munitions factory has killed or badly injured several of the young women who have taken on dangerous work in support of the war effort.
At first, it seems more than likely the explosion was an accident, and Tom has only been called in because the forces are stretched thin. But as he talks to the employees of the factory, inner divisions -- between the owner and his employees, between unionists and workers who fear communist infiltration -- begin to appear. Put that together with an AWOL young soldier who unwittingly puts all those he loves at risk and a charming American documentary filmmaker who may be much more than he seems, and you have a page-turning novel that bears all the hallmarks of Maureen Jennings' extraordinary talent: a multi-faceted mystery, vivid characters, snappy dialogue, and a pitch-perfect sense of the era of the Blitz, when the English were pushed to their limits and responded with a courage and resilience that still inspires.
Jennings's second historical set in WWII-era England and starring Det. Insp. Tom Tyler (after 2011's Season of Darkness) improves on its predecessor while staking a better claim for the series' longevity. In 1940, Tyler is stationed in the small community of Whitchurch when he gets a call from Special Branch. An explosion has rocked a munitions factory in Birmingham, one of the inspector's previous posts, and Special Branch spymaster Mr. Grey wants to know if it was accidental or not. To answer this question, Tyler must first sort through a tangle of competing factions, from Irish, Welsh, and Scottish nationalists, to the substantial Communist faction within organized labor. Jennings brings a colorful sense of detail to her evocation of Britain during the Blitz, and if the plotting isn't of the same high caliber as Anthony Horowitz's Foyle's War teleplays, it gets the job done well enough to make the prospect of a third book appealing.