The Wrong Man
Felony & Mayhem, Dec 7 2014, $14.95
In 1950, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales police send a telegram to Metropolitan Police that John Davies confessed to killing his wife Muriel after she miscarried and giving away his infant daughter Judy to Norman Backhouse in London. Although he wants nothing to do with this case that echoes the murder of his wife Jenny and their unborn child several years ago, London Detective Inspector Ted Stratton and Sergeant Ballard head to the address provided by Davies. The two cops search the drain in front of 10 Paradise Street where Davies said he disposed of her body but find nothing as it takes a team of four strong cops to remove the lid. Supported by his spouse Edna, Norman tells them that John said his wife and baby were in Bristol and that the couple fought so much they wondered if he was a bit mental and dim-witted.
Davies changes his confession to claiming Backhouse killed his wife during a failed backroom abortion. Taken to London, when the bodies of his wife and daughter are found, Davies admits to murdering both. However, instead of case solved, Stratton senses something is not right with this air-tight capital case in which his guts scream The Wrong Man heads to the gallows.
Based on a true murder, the third Ted Stratton police procedural and first post WWII novel (see The Empty Death and The Innocent Spy) is a terrific historical psychological crime drama. The clever opening telegram as a prime communication between police in Wales and London sets the time as does the way evidence is found and handled. Although an unnecessary romance with Diana Calthrop feels forced, Laura Wilson provides a fabulous Cold War mystery.