Australian Billie Walker worked for a newspaper during World War II, taking risks so she could file her reports. She met and married British correspondent Jack Rake, whose exploits earned him plaudits – he survived a plane crash and smuggled film past the Nazis – but also placed him in grave danger. He disappeared without a trace, despite Billie’s best efforts to find him. With the war over, Billie returns to Sydney, grieving the loss of her husband and mourning the death of her father, Barry, a former police officer turned P.I.
After Victory in the Pacific Day, women, who so gallantly picked up the slack while the men went off to fight, found themselves sidelined. Rather than taking a job writing social items and obituaries, Billie decides to reopen her father’s business. Her sole employee, Samuel Baker, who fought in the war and suffered the loss of a few fingers, deals with his disability with wooden prosthetics and leather gloves.
When Billie’s father ran the agency, divorce work was his bread and butter. Hired by Baroness Ella von Hooft to track her cheating Dutch husband, Barry not only did that, but ended up falling in love. He and Ella never married even after she got pregnant. (Ella had the wealth to weather even an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.) But the two were devoted and provided a loving upbringing for Billie.
Like her father, Billie spends a great deal of time tracking unfaithful husbands. But she longs for cases that are more exciting. When Nettie Brown walks into her office she gets her wish – and then some.
Adin Brown has been missing for several days. The teenager has never been in trouble and his parents are worried. While Nettie balks at Billie’s daily fee of ten pounds, she soon agrees. One of the first clues, a newspaper Adin picked up in a milk bar, ripping out an article about an auction. Billie’s search will take her inside The Dancers, one of Sydney’s exclusive clubs where the wealthy meet, and as she soon discovers, so do war criminals.
On the side, Billie investigates the disappearance of several indigenous girls after a plea from her confidential informant, Shyla. Before Bille’s through, the two cases will merge, unveiling a dark conspiracy that survived the war to take root in Australia.
Tara Moss’s The War Widow introduces a new and intriguing character for the prolific author. Billie Walker will bring to mind the femme fatales that populate the film noirs set in the 40s. Although as described, Billie has the looks and fashion sense, she’s more than window dressing and can go toe to toe with friend or foe. Armed with her Fighting Red lipstick and a small revolver she hides in her garter, she’s ready to do battle. After facing down enemies in a war-torn Europe, she’s never met an adversary she can’t handle.
Moss has done her research and the Sydney she sketches, a city far away from the battlefields but still recovering, rings true. While Billie wraps up this case, making a few friends and enemies along the way, we’re left with the feeling she’s just getting started. We hope this is the beginning of another Moss series.
The War Widow
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