The story begins in 1959, with constable Pete Bradley’s discovery of a savagely murdered woman alongside the Thames, and ends in 1965, when, as a detective sergeant, he finally solves the mystery of “Jack the Stripper”—there are more bodies over the years, all of them petite prostitutes. Pete’s story, of successes and setbacks, of personal obsession and departmental politics, runs parallel to the first-person narrative of Stella, a young designer who finds both joy and heartbreak in the fashion and art worlds of swinging London. She is also haunted by lifelike visions of the murdered women’s final moments. Unsworth (The Singer, 2009) draws on a large canvas, incorporating race riots and sex scandals, hard bop and op art, and then-current events such as the Profumo Affair and the Clay-Cooper fight. It’s a provocative mix of real history and imagined crime, shot through with a sordid police-corruption angle that recalls James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet. Unfortunately, despite Stella’s psychic connection, the two lives never cohere into one story. Readers not entranced by the era may feel that Unsworth has gotten lost in the details. --Keir Graff
"'An astonishingly evocative and emotional telling of the tale, a heartbreaking elegy for the blank generation' - Jake Arnott 'A compulsive and engrossing book, the characters and the narratives utterly convincing' - David Peace"