A House of Knives, by William Shaw

Shaw has done it again. This is the second book of the Breen and Towzer series. Set in 1968, it is a cracking read of skulduggery.

HouseOfKnivesCoverShaw has done it again. This is the second book of the Breen and Towzer series. Set in 1968, it is a cracking read of skulduggery.

Frankie Pugh, the son of a minister, is found dead in mysterious circumstances and Detective Sergeant Breen is finding it hard to conduct his murder investigation, because of obstruction from high places, politicians, and old enemies.

He has, of course, WPC Tozer to aid and abet him. But she is led by "Groovy Bob", the infamous art dealer, into a world of hippies and heroin.

What sets this book apart from all the other crime books out there is the wonderful sense of time and place. Set against a vivid portrayal of pop culture, social turmoil, and class conflict, it breathes life into what could be a tired formula.

The late 1960s had a lot to answer for - not least the terrible fashions, mainly for men, with loon pants, love beads, Afghan coats that smelled so badly of wet sheep that the patchouli oil was a relief, and those droopy moustaches. By contrast, mini skirts and white lipstick for the women were a joy to behold.

Then there was the music. Most of it a pure delight. This book dances to the rhythm - and the style and the language - of those far-off years.

The casual bigotry was taken for granted and, reading these pages, we can realise quite how far we have come. Thank God.