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Black Out (1995)

by John Lawton

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4671953,393 (3.61)35
In London, during World War II, a dog uncovers a severed arm, which turns out to be that of a rocket scientist--and it was not a bomb that killed him. Sgt. Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard is assigned to the case, which pits him against the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the wartime spy agency.

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World War II....London....,Murder Mystery.....Full of win. ( )
  cdaley | Nov 2, 2023 |
It is 1944 in London and Sergeant Frederick Troy of the London Police is called out to a bomb site where an arm has been found. That is the start of a story that has every possible twitch, and the result is not great.

The only interesting part was to see some of the characters that appear in [b:Then We Take Berlin|17347336|Then We Take Berlin|John Lawton|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1377648161s/17347336.jpg|24087534] from another point of view and that is not enough.

Further books about Troy has higher grades but I suspect that is because people like I will not even read them and give them a grade. ( )
  bratell | Dec 25, 2020 |
Depending on your reading preferences, especially fiction, this may be as exciting and a fun reading experience for you as it has been for me. The eight book series is structured like no other that I have read, not just across the eight books, but also within each of the eight books. Let me try to explain – and fortunately, this book, “Black Out” (BO) the first written in the series, serves as an excellent example. BO was published in 1994. Most of the story is set in London, late in WWll, from February, 1944 until two days after D-Day (6/6/44). The last fifty pages take place in 1948, and the setting for those final pages is London and Berlin. The next book, “Old Flames” was published two years later. I have no idea what its chronology is; it may start in 1952, then after 100 pages leap backwards in time to 1938 for 150 pages or so, then leapfrog the early chapters and zip ahead to the later 50s. All of a sudden we are meeting characters from previous books, including some who died in those earlier books. And what characters! Author Lawton has created a set of gems with protagonist Freddie Troy, his Russian émigré dad, his MP, war hero brother, the older twin sisters both of whom enjoy embarrassing and tantalizing young Fred. Fred was born in approximately 1915, so he is in his late 20s when this story starts. Each book seems to have a fascinating supporting cast in addition to the family. Out of no where Joseph P Kennedy, US Ambassador to the UK will become a major character. Then there’s Ike, Winnie, etc.

Anyway, back to the chronology thing. While I can’t exactly explain why I can say I really enjoyed it. I must confess that I have read the entire series before, probably about ten years ago. Before realizing the date issue for the series, I made the situation even more complex by choosing the third or fourth book to be my first! Why?!. I do this sometimes, recognizing that the first book may be the weakest (characters are being developed, etc) and I don’t want to make a commitment to read the whole series based on anything short of having the author showing me his better/best stuff.

So what’s BO about? Troy is a homicide detective who finds most of a human arm while perusing the rubble of a bombed residence. Before long he is up to his ankles? knees(?) in suspect Germans (spies?), old photos, contacts….a murder mystery. But it’s a lot more than another crime fiction story. The reader is also absorbed by the war, with incredible scenes of packed humanity on the tube platforms, so thick that passengers have difficulty exiting the trains. And Berlin, with its skinny survivors 4 years after the war, still surrounded by dust, brick, destruction. The war is inescapable in this story.

The main suspect turns out to be an American Major, someone who seems to have a skill and a penchant for murder. And the major is very close to one of Troy’s sources. Two of these sources are rather incredible; both are beautiful, attractive, sexy women. One is Lady Diana Brack, a socialite, with a protective daddy and daddy’s lawyers; Diana is someone known to Freddie since childhood, and a childhood kiss. Brack, about 3 inches taller than Freddie, reminds this reader of that old song, “Whatever Lola wants, Lola….”. And then there’s Tosca, an aide to an American Colonel, who wants nothing to do with Freddie’s investigation. Tosca is blonde, small, but very athletic. Both girls are femmes fatale in their very different ways, and while both appear to wind up la morte towards the bloody climax (but not ultra bloody), at least one manages to survive. And who is this Anna character who pops up in the final pages ? Highly recommended. 4 ½ stars. ( )
  maneekuhi | Apr 8, 2020 |
If I'd paid a little more attention to the clues planted in the synopsis of this book, I would not have purchased it-- but more on that a little later.

Black Out covers 1944-1948 in London, and as I have been enjoying a few mysteries set in that same time period, I decided to see what this book was all about. For me, there was very little real historical flavor to the setting outside of blackout curtains, potholes in the roads, and having the occasional bomb land somewhere nearby. The major reason why I should have paid more attention to the synopsis is that I do not care for spy thrillers, and that is precisely what Black Out turned out to be. Paraphrasing the words of one of the characters: Just give me an old-fashioned murder any day, thank you very much.

However, it wasn't just the spy game element of the book that left me cold; the characters did, too. The two token women, Tosca and Brack, played their jolly nymphomaniac and tall, cool femme fatale roles to perfection, but nothing they did really surprised me. Constable Wildeve was my favorite of the lot, and he deserved a drawerful of commendations for putting up with Sergeant Troy, who seemed to believe that the young man was psychic.

Troy is the son of a titled Russian émigré, and it's a combination of this background coupled with how his schoolmates and others have reacted to it that has made him distrustful. He holds himself apart and does quite a good job of behaving like a cold fish. Troy also is the sort of police officer that I don't particularly care for. He's all about the chase, regardless of whom he puts at risk. It's not so bad when the only person in danger is himself, but he willfully throws other people under the bus, too. I like my coppers with a bit more compassion because it isn't just about the chase.

So... my opinion of Black Out isn't all that great. I can see that it is fast-paced and well-written, and it does have a story that held my interest, but Troy just isn't my sort of policeman. Keep in mind that your mileage may certainly vary. Now I just have to remind myself to pay closer attention to those synopses! ( )
  cathyskye | Dec 2, 2019 |
somewhat uneven writing. Plot felt somewhat incomplete--as if it were just a vehicle for the characters, but without the character development. ( )
  gpaisley | Jun 18, 2016 |
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In the London borough of Stepney very little remained of Cardigan Street.
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In London, during World War II, a dog uncovers a severed arm, which turns out to be that of a rocket scientist--and it was not a bomb that killed him. Sgt. Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard is assigned to the case, which pits him against the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the wartime spy agency.

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