Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Review of Dead Man's Land by Robert Ryan

Liz has revewed Dead Man's Land for us...

For those of us who adore crime stories and/or who are fans of World War 1 this is one of the best. Set the trenches of Loos and Flanders, Robert Ryan sets the scene with such vigour that you can smell the cordite, hear the gun barrages, the fear and the depression of the men and sink in the mud caused by the interminable rain is palpable. Death is merely a statistic as the terrible slaughter of the time continues and is accepted with resignation. However, a death with a different face emerges – not shot or blown to pieces – a death which manifests itself as even more cruel and shocking than the “norm” of the fatal wounds of war – these bodies are marked with Roman numerals.

Dr Watson, the worthy companion of Sherlock Holmes (with whom he has had a falling-out) has volunteered to join up and travel to France to help the wounded as much as he can, even though he is older than the rest of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He finds himself in charge of the investigation into this unexplained death and is ably assisted by his two VADs, Miss Pippery and Mrs Gregson. After many false starts and red herrings, gruesome disinterments from graveyards at night and in unmentionable danger, Watson gropes his way through the strong camaraderie of the Leigh Pals platoons, the strict hierarchy of the nursing staff and doctors, the madness of a world turned upside down where the social order has been eradicated in the fight to overcome the enemy, towards a surprising conclusion which you do not see coming. He makes friend and enemies on the way and has many serious adventures of his own, finally becoming reconciled with his old friend and mentor, Holmes, who manages, in spite of his infirmities, to aid him in his search for the perpetrator.

The book is permeated with the atmosphere of the trenches, the realities of what the lost generation suffered, as well as being a superb detective story. I found it difficult to put down until all the different threads were unravelled in the final resolution. I thoroughly recommend this book to all who enjoy a thoroughly good read.

Thanks Liz and thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending us a copy to review.

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