The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The keeping of a journal will also, I trust, provide an opportunity to note down observations relating to my work, although I have no intention of producing anything resembling the sort of police memoir so popular these days. I find such publications devoid of personal interest, containing as they do a series of anecdotes written for no other purpose than that of self-aggrandisement. What is missing, one feels, is the reflections of an ordinary police inspector doing an extraordinary job. For the role of the police officer today is no longer confined to the prevention of crime, rather we are expected to fulfil the role of social inspector. Be there bonfire or smoke, traffic accidents or tardy dust contractors, abandoned children or missing dogs, then a person's first port of call is a police officer. Divisions differ of course: an inspector at Kensington is likely to be inundated with elderly ladies reporting the loss of a cat or a purse, while an inspector at Tottenham Court Road will find himself in a veritable hot bed of crime. When it comes to Upper Holloway, barely a day passes without one sergeant or another bringing in a drunk or a thief. And then there are the children, particularly around the Seven Sisters Road, who quite deliberately get themselves 'lost' and report as much to the beat constable in the hope of being taken to the station for a slice of bread and jam. Divisional Superintendent Dyball has let it be known that this practice is to cease forthwith. Instead, any stray children with homes to go to are to be given a good clip round the ear and told to make their way whence they came.

One of those novels I had picked up years ago on a whim; Annie Sweet, recently separated from her husband in 2008, becomes obsessed with tracking down the story of Lily Painter, a teenage music hall performer who lived in the same house in 1901. I'm afraid that I worked out what the twist ending was going to be about half way through, and I was also annoyed by the policeman character who seems to have very little grasp of police procedure and writes implausible diary entries. But it's told with a certain amount of emotional force, and if I were in a less cynical mood at the moment it might well have worked better for me. You can get it here.

This was the non-genre fiction book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that list is The Inside of the Cup, by the other Winston Churchill. But it will have to wait until I have finished all the books I acquired in 2013 (I'm getting through them fairly rapidly).

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