Walthamstow, 1902: Archie and his police sergeant pal Frank Tyrell investigate the disappearance of teenager Lilian and the discovery of a corpse in the River Lea – Eleanor ‘Nell’ Redfern. Did her father’s ambitious plans to marry her to a rail magnate cause her to run away to her watery doom?
And what about Lilian Steggles, a star swimmer with her eye on the 1908 Olympics – what prompted her to disappear from home and where is she now?
Archie uses his artistic skills to identify Nell and thence to track down her story and that of the other victims of a dastardly scheme to exploit young girls for the benefit of lascivious older men.
This was a jolly romp. Sad at times but always told with a sense of humour.
Archie Price is a police artist, drawing life-like images of missing persons to help his pal Detective Inspector Frank Tyrell gain information and also to jog the public’s memory. Have they seen so-and-so? Does this sketch ring a bell?
But Archie is also a renowned painter with pictures hanging in the National Gallery. And if that’s not all, he is painting a giant mural at the Walthamstow Palace, depicting famous stars of the music hall, including Marie Lloyd (the only one I have heard of), Little Tich, Hettie King and others, including a ghastly ventriloquist named Mickey Markov and his hideous puppet Algernon – aren’t they always? Hideous I mean.
One of the things I like best about this book is the in-depth characterisations. Archie I have already mentioned. Then there is photographer Polly who Archie loves dearly, feisty stepdaughter Clara (I always love a Clara as it’s my youngest granddaughter’s name), poor Lilian Steggles, Nell’s only true love apprentice gardener Gil Blackett and many more. They are beautifully drawn and we feel as though we know them. They could be living next door or popping round for a cup of tea.
I love Archie and Polly and of course Clara. And I love Archie’s mum who lives in Wales near Llantwit Major. It’s a place I know well as we used to visit every year when my son studied and then taught at the nearby Atlantic College. The places are beautifully drawn like the characters and I love it when I know the location and can visualise the sea and the cliffs where St Donat’s Castle stands. But I digress.
Many of the women characters are supporters of the suffragette movement, something else I really love, and Archie has sympathy for the movement.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
Jacqueline Jacques was born on Anglesey and brought up in Walthamstow, where many of her stories are set. She is a retired primary school teacher, now living in Buckhurst Hill, Essex. She has published three books with Piatkus – Someone to Watch Over Me, Wrong Way Up The Slide and A Lazy Eye. This is her fifth book for Honno, which combine her love of writing with her other interests: art and social history.