The Lydmouth Series by Andrew Taylor
‘The most underrated crime writer in Britain today’
‘…I wanted the plots of the novels to turn as far as possible on how people thought and lived in that extraordinary decade just after World War II.’
A new reader coming to this outstanding series might be expecting classic Golden Age detective novels – they are set 50 years ago in a small town and feature a handsome, intelligent detective, his attractive wife and family, a glamorous female newspaper reporter and a cast of colourful locals. All these seem full of potential for a lavishly nostalgic TV production.
However several factors make this series rather different and special. Andrew Taylor transports his readers back to the 1950s (a fairly unfashionable era for modern audiences). We immediately inhabit the world of the novels without any sense of the author inserting carefully-researched facts and ‘period detail’ into the narrative: stockings ladder, heavy woollen suits smell of sweat, everyone smokes everywhere, the food is deeply unappetising….. but all this is so naturally done, you feel that Taylor is effortlessly describing a world he knows intimately.
Moreover, his understanding of how people lived at that time of immense change is deep and sympathetic. In fact ‘the psychological and moral baggage that people carry around them’ is as important as crime in the books. An Air That Kills introduces Jill Francis, a newspaper reporter who flees London to escape something (which is only revealed gradually); Detective Inspector Richard Thornhill, recently transferred to Lydmouth from the Fens and feeling a little uncomfortable here where ‘Everyone knows everyone else’; his wife Edith, a local girl, pleased by the move; Sergeant Kirby; the Wemyss-Browns – Charlotte who owns one of the local newspapers and Philip who edits it…. As the series progresses, the reader inevitably becomes more and more involved in the complex relationships between these central characters.
Small town scandals, attitudes to sex and sexuality, local government corruption, hypocrisy and class distinctions, among a population coming to terms with post-war life, provide the plots, along with a variety of subjects more specific to the period – the dreadful consequences of polio, or different reactions to squatters in a military camp. Edith Thornhill gets a story of her own in Death’s Own Door.
‘Lydmouth’ is in the English-Welsh border country and the superbly evocative titles of all the novels are taken from A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad poems.
Unattributed quotations above are from Andrew Taylor’s own website http:www.andrewtaylor.co.uk/
3. The Lover of the Grave (1997)
4. The Suffocating Night (1998)
5. Where Roses Fade (2000)
6. Death’s Own Door (2001)
7. Call the Dying (2004)
8. Naked to the Hangman (2006)