Set in London in the mid-1960s. Theatre land has welcomed American actress Iolanthe Green as the leading lady in a new play at the Galaxy Theatre. As the book opens Lanny has gone missing and a media storm has ensued. She said goodbye to her dresser Anna Treadwell at the end of her show and then just vanished into thin air. When she didn’t return after the weekend break the theatre raises the alarm and Barnaby Hayes is tasked with the police investigation.
I chose this book thinking that it would be a crime thriller set in the world of London theatre and in many ways that is a big part of its appeal. As the story starts to unravel you realise that it is more about prejudices, mass immigration and the integration of those immigrants into an existing society.
Anna’s employer and landlord is a homosexual and lives in fear of being “outed” in an England that still prosecutes gay men for their sexuality. The café below her flat is run by a Turkish family who try hard to be a part of their new environment. Their daughter struggles to balance the expectations of her family and faith with the freedoms available to her. Even policeman Hayes is not exempt from prejudice. As an Irishman his superior officer calls him “Mick” and classes him as being lazy just because of his origins.
When the investigation into Lanny’s disappearance seems to be going nowhere Anna takes it upon herself to follow in her footsteps and finds herself in a rather less salubrious part of Soho. In an area of clubs and bars that are largely frequented by the new West Indian immigrants. Helped by a young man who comes to her aid Anna is soon experiencing overt and direct racism as she encounters police brutality and public mistrust of her black companion.
In some ways this is quite distracting and you find yourself having to manually sift through the threads of the story to keep it straight in your head. Because of that it is hard to categorise this book. It purports to be a mystery story with the investigation into Lanny Green’s disappearance. It is also a commentary on race relations and social attitudes in England in the Sixties. Unfortunately for me it fails to do either justice and the social commentary becomes too much of a distraction from the main story.
Supplied by Net Galley and Harper Collins UK in exchange for an honest review.
UK Publication Date: Jan 12 2017. 304 pages.