Beginning to End by Paul Hughes

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Beginning to End by Paul Hughes

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A cracking-good story of crime and corruption in the London of 1967. It's a page turner despite editing & proofreading problems
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 476 Date: April 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1544085135

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Sir Mark Wright, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, based at New Scotland Yard was aware that the Met was riddled with corruption, but in 1967 times were changing and Wright was determined that he was going to upgrade the service by ridding it of corrupt officers and bringing in new technology. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of people against him: some were making very good money on the side and quite a few of the old-timers weren't too keen on all this technology nonsense. They didn't think walkie-talkies would really work and computers would never really catch on. One of Wright's first actions was to bring in some new blood: what came to be known as 'the trained brains' - people with qualifications in specific areas who could introduce new ideas, whilst being mentored by the older, more experienced officers.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Devlin, fresh out of Glasgow, had degrees in criminology and psychology and he would be mentored by Detective Inspector Andy Spearing. Spearing was less than impressed by the idea but the pair quickly developed a respect for each other: Spearing had the advantage of being straight, well, as straight as a copper was likely to be in the sixties, and Devlin wasn't just a brain. He had the muscle to go with it. Within a couple of weeks they'd be dealing with crooked MI5 agents, an assassin known as the Fox, the widow of a mobster who doesn't seem to be grieving as much as might be expected to do - and a dead rent boy.

There are a couple of elephants in the room - let's get them out of the way first. The dialogue is wooden and the book is in need of professional copy editing and proofreading to clear away the spelling mistakes, punctuation problems, formatting errors and anachronisms. It's frustrating because they could so easily have been put right prior to publication and they spoil the reading experience of what's otherwise a cracking-good story.

The plotting is excellent with various threads intertwining and playing off each other. Paul Hughes captures the hectic life of a London copper in the sixties as he juggles his case load, but with the advantage of prisoners not having quite so many safeguards as they have fifty years later. He's understanding too about how the corruption came about: he attributes it to post-war conditions, initially, rather than simple greed. You get a sense that Hughes knows the period and the area well.

His characters are good too: you get a real sense of the developing relationship between Spearing and Devlin. Hughes wisely doesn't rely on a romantic relationship to introduce female characters and I was delighted to see some strong women appear as characters. This was, of course, the time when homosexuality ceased to bring down the wrath of the law and I liked the way that Hughes accommodated the change, with some characters welcoming it, others still struggling to come to terms with the new legislation - and some failing to accept it at all. From my memories of the time it's a fair reflection of society as it then was. All in all, an enjoyable read, with at least one more book in the series to follow.

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more sixties crime we can recommend Broken Bodies by June Hampson.

You can read more about Paul Hughes here.

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