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Historical Fiction,  Review

#BookReview : The War Widow (Billie Walker Mystery #1) by Tara Moss #TheWarWidow @DuttonBooks // impressive, well written and well researched historical fiction

Historical fiction

The War Widow (Billie Walker Mystery #1) by Tara Moss

Publication Date : December 29th 2020

Publisher : Dutton Books 

Genre : Historical fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Pages : 368

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The war may be officially over, but journalist Billie Walker’s search for a missing young immigrant man will plunge her right back into the danger and drama she thought she’d left behind in Europe in this thrilling tale of courage and secrets set in glamorous postwar Sydney.

Sydney, 1946. Though war correspondent Billie Walker is happy to finally be home, for her the heady postwar days are tarnished by the loss of her father and the disappearance in Europe of her husband, Jack. To make matters worse, now that the war is over, the newspapers are sidelining her reporting talents to prioritize jobs for returning soldiers. But Billie is a survivor and she’s determined to take control of her own future. So she reopens her late father’s business, a private investigation agency, and, slowly, the women of Sydney come knocking.

At first, Billie’s bread and butter is tailing cheating husbands. Then, a young man, the son of European immigrants, goes missing, and Billie finds herself on a dangerous new trail that will lead up into the highest levels of Sydney society and down into its underworld. What is the young man’s connection to an exclusive dance club and a high class auction house? When the people Billie questions about the young man start to turn up dead, Billie is thrown into the path of Detective Inspector Hank Cooper. Will he take her seriously or will he just get in her way? As the danger mounts and Billie realizes that much more than one young man’s life is at stake, it becomes clear that though the war was won, it is far from over.

*** Note : I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Dutton & Plume. ***

The War Widow was amazing post WWII historical fiction that revolved around Billie Walker trying to solve the case of Adin Brown’s disappearance that turns out more complicated and dangerous than she thought. It was about post war effects on country and people, perceptions, sexism, racism, war crime, grief and determination.

Writing was gripping, descriptive, and atmospheric. It was third person narrative from Billie’s POV. The switch from Billie’s POV to Adin’s at the beginning of some chapters telling what was going on with him made story tense and intriguing.

It started with Billie still coping with grief of her father’s death and missing husband, Jack, who never returned from a mission and with the fact that she most likely was a war widow. She was trying to keep her father’s detective agency afloat by taking divorce cases but things changed when she got a missing person case. What she thought simple case, a teenage getting in girl trouble turned more complicated and dangerous when person she tried to get information from turned up dead and kidnappers tried to get her off the case. I was curious to find out what Adin might have involved himself in, why he was kidnapped and tortured, if Billie could find him before it’s too late.

Characters were realistic. I liked Billie’s mother Baroness Ella von Hooft. She was smart and strong lady. I could see from where she got her charm and determination. Her mother’s lady’s maid, Alma, was not really talkative but her silent and loyal support to Billie’s mother and her family was amazing.

Sam, Billie’s secretary and assistant was a returned serviceman with wooden prosthetic fingers. He was strong, supportive and loyal. I liked him for being different from other men of those time, never felt ashamed of working for a lady and sticking with Billie all the time, taking care of her, helping when she needed most, and even defended her. I could see something happening between them if there wasn’t girlfriend in picture or missing husband or arrival of Detective Cooper. Sam and Billie made a good team and I would love to see them more in next books.

Detective Inspector Hank Cooper was interesting man. He was man of few words with straight face that hardly showed any emotion but was different from corrupt police department Billie’s father left ages ago. He knew more than he let on and I liked him for accepting Billie’s offer of professional friendship, working with her in solving the case, and believing in her. I have a feeling there will more about him in next books of this series.

Billie was amazing. She was former journalist with strong, badass and cool-headed persona. Her style and skill at sewing and her detective work was impressive. I admired her determination. She was young war widow and her mother persistent reminder about that and finding suitable man than risking her life with PI business, facing society’s disapproval and other PIs or officers not so gentlemanly behaviour didn’t stop her from running her agency and pursuing the case. I liked how author showed her vulnerability along with her strong personality and the way her character was expanded throughout the story. Her rumination about war, her life with Jack and what she lost in war, and society’s perception were thought-provoking.  

Sydney of 1946- style, fashion, streets, places, and how war changed things in city- was brilliantly described. I liked how author mixed realistic and fictional aspects of history. I could see the extensive research author must have done in writing the story. I liked reading more about WWI and II and what happened after this big war and the more I read about it, the more I discover. That tagline was perfect. ‘War was over but battle has just began..’ and that wasn’t just for Billie. It was heart wrenching to read women’s condition in this era, how people treated war widows and aborigines, how women had to leave their job for men returning from war and if they had job it was low paid and insignificant and what happened to women in Ravensbrück concentration camp was blood chilling to read. I still can’t imagine how people could form hatred so deep and to such extent and how could they kill so many without remorse or regret.

There were many twists and turns. I couldn’t guess what will happen next throughout the story. Mystery was intriguing. I was surprised to see not just one but two cases when Billie’s informant talked about a foreigner taking interest in aborigine girls and something bad happening to them. The integration of both cases was smooth. There was murder, action scenes, fighting thugs, dance at club, car chase, breaking into property, and war criminals. Climax was exciting with series of events that turned from bad to good and to worst with shocking but satisfactory end.

Overall, The War Widow was impressive, intriguing, fast paced, well written and well researched historical fiction that I recommend to fans of mystery and historical fiction set in Post WW II era.


What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book or are you going to add it to TBR? Do you like books set in post WWI or WWII era? If so, which is your favourite book?

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

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