The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon is my 6th. and final book for the What's In A Name? challenge which is being hosted by The Worm Hole. It covers the category, 'A title beginning with Z'.
Richard Temperley is pleased to arrive early one morning at Euston Station in London. His fellow passenger has loudly snored his way through the journey and Richard is glad to be rid of him. He takes temporary refuge in a nearby hotel, until the city wakes, but within minutes the peace is shattered when the man he shared his carriage with is shot dead in an armchair in the lounge. A young woman is fleeing the scene, Richard had previously seen her on the station platform, but he simply can't believe that she committed the murder. While being interviewed by the police he discovers the woman's small bag in the depths of the armchair and for some reason does not reveal it to them.
The police have discovered an enamelled 'Z' at the scene of the crime, is this relevant? Intrigued and wanting to see the woman again and to return her bag, Temperley sets off in search of her. He tracks down her London flat: she's not there but it's clear someone has been there before him. Sylvia Wynne turns up eventually, declares herself innocent, but will not reveal details she clearly knows about the murder.
Temperley convinces her to trust him and to let him help her and thus begins a mad, countrywide dash. First to Bristol, although Richard does not know why. He soon finds out when they hear that a woman has been shot there in a field and another enamel 'Z' has been found at the scene. It's clear a serial killer is on the loose and the police are relying on Sylvia and Richard to help them find a merciless killer.
This one was a quite a ride. Literally. Bristol, Lincolnshire, Shropshire... a mad dash all over England and a thoroughly enjoyable romp. At times it beggared belief a little, but that's fine, plus I needed my wits about me a bit to keep up, as there are a lot of characters and the pace is relentless. But I loved the very real sense of menace from the killings and the killer. Different points of view are used very effectively, including the murderer and what he's doing, but not why or precisely who he is. You soon realise that he's a nasty piece of work and become rather alarmed about what'll happen when the pursuers catch up with the pursued and, at times, who's pursuing whom. It's that kind of book. Great stuff by the author of Mystery in White. I'd like to read more by him but there aren't that many and I've already read several. Never mind, there are plenty more of these wonderful vintage crime books that have been reissued by The British Library.