Friday, June 5, 2020

Review of Fires of London by Janice Law (2012, Mysterious Press)

The artist Francis Bacon works as an ARP warden in the blitz in London and lives with his half-blind and light fingered childhood nanny. He takes advantage of the blackout to cruise for illicit liaisons, party in various bars where other gay men meet, and run his own roulette gambling den. When a young man he knows is found dead he gets drawn into the search for the killer, with two more deaths placing him in the frame as a suspect. Edging round the fringes of a club that provides violent trysts he searches for a way to clear his name and bring the real killer to light.

Fires of London is the first of six books featuring Francis Bacon as an amateur sleuth. The tale is rooted in some biographical context, set before Bacon received any recognition for his work, and it does a nice job of capturing the blitz and the underground gay scene in the city. Written in the first person, Bacon is cast as a complex, clever man who enjoys risk, adventure, infidelity, and a degree of hedonism, and is somewhat of a loner despite the presence of his nanny companion, a steady relationship, a circle of acquaintance and friends. The mystery is nicely plotted leading to a tense denouement.

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