MYSTERY

The Kings of London

Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jan. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780316246873. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316246866. M
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OrangeReviewStarLondon 1968. DS Cathal "Paddy" Breen is simply trying to cope in this second entry in a projected trilogy (following She's Leaving Home). The routine investigation surrounding the discovery of the charred remains of a body has been turned over to Paddy. When a second charred corpse is discovered, the autopsy reveals that the skin on its arms and legs had been flayed and the body bled out. The fact that the second victim is the son of a top government minister immediately ups the ante. Paddy is also harassed at both work and at his flat. His colleague, Helen Tozer, who, by virtue of her sex, is forbidden from driving a police vehicle, is considering moving back to her family farm to slop the hogs. Quaint period details abound: orange plastic chairs, green Olivetti typewriters, and "big" new 22" TVs. The good-old-boy networks, sexism, racism, police cover-ups, and the terrible appeal of exercising power, though, seem all too contemporary.
VERDICT This critique of the Swinging Sixties is administered by a crackerjack storyteller who adroitly balances likable lead characters, bursts of intense action, and a great ear for office banter that will engage any reader who remembers the era, as well as anyone who has to google "bell-bottoms."

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