Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick

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Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Three killed by hollow point bullets in a sleepy Californian town. But what could a firebrand congressman, a rags to riches businessman and a barmaid have in common? A second outing for Vietnam vet turned crime reporter, Wat Tyler and it has as many twists and turns as his first.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 316 Date: April 2024
Publisher: Troubador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1805143765

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It's September 1973 in Hicks, California. Hicks is a Mojave desert town of a few thousand people with its nearest neighbours of LA and Las Vegas both a significant drive away. Not much happens in Hicks. A silver mine and a defence contractor are the main local employers but otherwise, there's not much of note other than dive bars and Joshua trees. Life is quiet, until....

... three people are shot and killed; a visiting congressman who's trying to promote unionisation of labour, a rags-to-riches businessman, and a barmaid on a break, seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are particularly gruesome shootings as well, with the bodies hideously disfigured by hollow point bullets.

Wat Tyler of the High Desert Herald is right on scene for the scoop, having just interviewed the congressman, who had told him he'd received death threats from anti-union workers. Are they to blame? Or is there more to the story? Wat teams up with local detective Lee Caraway to investigate. Caraway is the first female chief of detectives in Hicks and has a lot to prove. Soon they link the murders to a big defence contract and a missing contractor. And then the Feds and an old friend of Wat's, now working for the CIA, get involved.

Just as Chadwick's first outing for Wat Tyler did a great job at illuminating the politics of a United States mired in angry politics surrounding the Vietnam War and civil rights, Headload of Napalm shows a similar deep understanding of the Cold War and its effect domestically across the Pond. Fear of Communist infiltration has resulted in paranoid politics in which any effort for unionisation or workers rights comes under suspicion. State agencies are playing dangerous games. And there's plenty of spying. All of this, of course, makes for an excellent murder mystery with many players with many motivations, both overt and disguised. There's a subplot about PTSD and war veterans, which is sad and adds emotional depth to a fast-moving thriller narrative. 

Tyler and Lee Caraway pick their way through the many threads of this investigation with dogged determination, both have to deal with betrayal along the way and of course, you will root for them. But the main thrust of this novel is the political situation and I love the way Chadwick knits it into every page without ever losing narrative pace. If you enjoy a good political thriller, you will love Headload of Napalm.


You should read Wat's first outing in Tin Soldiers before heading into Headload of Napalm. You'll enjoy it just as much.

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Buy Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick at Amazon.com.


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