Book Review: Fifth Column

19 Sep

51jmprwkljl-_sx325_bo1204203200_Detective Inspector Jago investigates, uncovering deception and betrayal.

At first glance, the young woman found in the early hours of the morning where bombs have landed is just another casualty of the previous night’s air raid. But when the post-mortem shows signs of strangulation, Detective Inspector Jago is called on to investigate.

The dead woman is smartly dressed but carries no identification. However, a local engineering company reports a staff member has failed to appear at work that morning and the body is quickly identified as that of Miss Mary Watkins.

DI Jago’s initial interviews yield little fruit; no one can think of a reason why Mary would be murdered. But as the investigation continues DI Jago begins to uncover a trail of deception and betrayal.


1___Mike Hollow studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for the BBC and then Tearfund. Now a freelance writer and editor, he lives in Basingstoke (England) with his wife Margaret. A popular poet, his work has been widely performed and has appeared in many collections.


My Impressions:

Fifth Column is the second book in Mike Hollow’s Blitz Detective series. Set during the years of the Nazi bombings of London, this mystery is perfect for those who want an authentic look at England during WWII. I loved the attention to detail that Hollow brings to his novel — from women’s fashion and popular culture to the more serious issues of the nightly attacks from the skies and the threat of sabotage from spies (fifth column refers to a group within a country sympathetic to the enemy). While Fifth Column is the sequel to Direct Hit, it can be read as a standalone. But I recommend you begin at the beginning; you don’t want to miss any part of this great series.

The nightly bombings are beginning to wear on Detective Inspector John Jago. A survivor of the Great War, he never thought that his world would be upended in such a way again. But he has a job to do. When a body of a young woman is discovered at the site of a bombing, it becomes obvious that a bomb was not the culprit and a murderer is on the loose.

Rescue squad volunteers search the wreckage of bombed houses in South Molton Road, Canning Town, September 1940. Corrugated-steel Anderson shelter to the left. (Newham Heritage and Archive collection.)

Rescue squad volunteers search the wreckage of bombed houses in South Molton Road, Canning Town, September 1940. Corrugated-steel Anderson shelter to the left. (Newham Heritage and Archive collection.)

Fifth Column has a number of strengths. It is a slowly unfolding mystery that will keep you guessing. There are quite a few suspects all with tenuous connections to the victim. DI Jago, DC Craddock and the reader have their hands full trying to discover just what is going on. Thrown into the mix are blackmarket dealings, pro-Nazi sentiment, thefts and an extortion plot. Sounds like a lot going on and there is, but Hollow allows his detective to methodically and intuitively work through each clue. DI Jago is an interesting and sympathetic character. All alone in the world and with his life revolving around his work, he, nevertheless, looks to the future that seems just out of reach. Other characters are great compliments to the story and to Jago’s character development. For historical accuracy, Fifth Column cannot be beat. It is obvious that Hollow spent a great deal of time on research. Every detail seems just right and adds a depth to the story not often found in mystery fiction. The author’s website is a treasure trove of information surrounding the story and the history of the era.

I loved Fifth Column, and if you are a fan of historically based mysteries, I am betting you will too. A plot line concerning Jago’s personal life is left dangling, ensuring that I’ll have another enjoyable return visit with The Blitz Detective.


Highly Recommended. Please note: this is a British novel and contains some language.

Audience: Adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

4 Responses to “Book Review: Fifth Column”

  1. Iola Goulton September 20, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    This sounds excellent! I lived in London for ten years, and several of my relatives lived there during the Blitz. It’s rare (and good) to find Christian fiction from a British author with that era and setting.

    • rbclibrary September 21, 2016 at 5:56 am #

      I think you’ll like it, Iola. Jago is not a Christian, but wants to believe in something and the spiritual thread is subtle, but I think it will be develop in later books.

  2. thepowerofwords2016 September 25, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    I just now finished this most excellent book (running behind, as usual) and am trying to collect my thoughts, Beckie. I almost passed this one by, but I’m so glad I didn’t! Love your review.

    • rbclibrary September 25, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      Can’t wait to read your thoughts, Carole. My husband is reading it right now and liking it too.

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