Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Policeman's Lot by Gary M. Dobbs


Solstice Publishing, 3 June 2010.
A Policeman's Lot from Solstice Press, PDF format
A Policeman's Lot from Amazon, Kindle format
Smashwords, multiple Ebook and text formats

Location: Pontypridd, Wales, 1904.

Police Inspector Frank Parade prepares for duty after the last good night's rest he will enjoy for a while. For Parade, the policeman's lot is to maintain order in a six mile area with a handful of constables. But today is going to be more hectic than usual: several hundred cattle have to be moved through town on market day and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show has just pitched camp. This is just the beginning of Parade's problems which will include deaths, robberies, fights, an escaped convict, illicit tavern activity, an overly attentive landlady, and a revelation in the Jack the Ripper case.

The hook that gets readers' attention is the connection to Jack the Ripper and a satisfying and well set hook it is. But A Policeman's Lot is, at its core, a police procedural. Pontypridd in 1904 was cosmopolitan in many respects but still retained a frontier flavor: ...the streets were often lawless -- river traders, gypsies, pickpockets, drifters, even escaped convicts had to be contended with. The story follows Inspector Frank Parade as he puts in long hours monitoring the activities in town, investigating crimes, and schooling a likable but inexperienced young constable. At the time and place the book is set, the police were still developing as a professional organization and didn't have a widespread trust among the public, telephones were not widely available making communication over distances a problem, and forensic analysis was limited. In this environment, the police had to rely on techniques still used today: collect evidence, interview everyone, observe, find patterns.

Frank Parade makes for a quite interesting character. I see him as the kind of man that made the British empire -- brave, honorable, and dedicated to service. As a soldier, he saw action in the Second Boer War then traded Army khaki for the blue of a policeman. He is unwavering in his defense of the law, sets high standards for himself and his men but is not a martinet. Watching the sober Frank deal with the freewheeling Wild West Show made for a fun study in contrasts.

About the Ripper connection I'll only say that it fits nicely into the story and has enough fact to make it a credible plot line. It also lets us see Parade performing good, solid police investigation. I checked some of the Ripper forums after I finished the book and was astonished at the passion with which the case is studied.

A Policeman's Lot is an entertaining story that brings together one of the last icons of the American West, a look at British police work while the force was still in its infancy, and one of the most widely known murder cases in history. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy historical crime fiction and police procedurals.

My next post will be an interview with the author.

3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Mack - Thanks for this review. I really enjoy historical mysteries, so you've definitely piqued my interest in this one!

Nik said...

Thanks for the heads up on this. It is on my TBR list as it sounds highly original.

ARCHAVIST said...

Thanks for the review and I'm glad you liked A Policeman's Lot. Parade will of course return.