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THE ARMISTICE KILLER by David Palin: Book Review

Remembrance Day, November 11th, is a very special day in Great Britain, a day to remember those who fought and died in the country’s wars.  Tom Wright, a retired Regimental Sergeant Major, has fought in the Falkland Islands, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and each conflict has left its mark.  Wright cynically thinks about World War I–the war to end all wars, as it was known when it was over–and that he “would have been nothing if not a soldier.”  He’s getting ready to be picked up to participate in the events at the town’s cathedral, but many unwelcome thoughts are in his mind.  Plus he can’t shake the feeling that he’s being watched.

His landlord, Jaroslaw Wolniek, is having an uncomfortable feeling about his tenant.  He wonders why the sergeant’s car is still parked in front of the house late on this special morning when he knows that Wright was supposed to be carrying the regimental standard of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry at the cathedral; he should have left some time ago.  Finally, unable to get past his worry, he goes upstairs, knocks on Wright’s door, and when there’s no answer he unlocks the door with his key.  And there he sees a horrifying sight.

The sergeant’s body is on his bed, tied to the headboard with cable ties and choked to death with a swagger stick, the short riding crop usually carried by a military officer as a sign of authority.

Inspector Ben Logan is called to the scene.  Unknown to nearly everyone except his closest friend, psychologist Freddy Dessler, Logan has prosopagnosia, or facial blindness.  A neurological condition usually present from birth, it is definitely a handicap for a detective; Logan can barely see the features of those he works with or interviews.  But he is determined to control this and chooses not to reveal his condition to his colleagues or superiors.

In spite of the many medals and commendations Tom Wright accumulated in his army career, he had no shortage of enemies.  His ex-wife, Gill Scott, shows little sadness at the news of her husband’s death, telling Logan and his assistant Andy Pascoe that their marriage had been over years before their recent divorce.  When Logan asks whether their daughter Lara has been notified of her father’s death, Gill says she wouldn’t know.  “We haven’t talked in some time….Ten years.”  Truly a dysfunctional family, the detective thinks.

At the same time Ben is interviewing the widow, three men are watching the news about Wright’s death on their pub’s television.  In contrast to the respect and admiration that the reporter is showing for Wright, the men are almost gleeful.  “‘Ere’s to whoever did it,” one of them says, and the others raise their glasses.  A second man continues, “I’ll shed no tears over him.”

The more deeply Logan looks into Wright’s past, the more people he discovers who have reason to dislike, even hate, the former officer.  But enough to murder him in such a sadistic manner?

David Palin has written a book that looks below the surface of those with a publicly heroic life but who have a private life filled with horrific events.  Ben Logan, in his second outing, is a man fighting with his own private demons but trying not to let them interfere with his investigation.  He is the true hero of The Armistice Killer.

You can read more about David Palin at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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