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The Baedeker Murders by Julian Cole – a review

I suppose I should start by announcing a declaration of interest – I love York and am very lucky to live in such a wonderful city. It also makes me rather biased to anything that is York based, so my latest read, The Baedeker Murders did have a slight starting advantage!

The Baedeker Murders is the first novel I’ve read by local author Julian Cole, and he kindly sent me a copy. The book starts off in the aftermath of a bombing raid on York. It then moves to the present day where Maximillian is visiting York in order to apologise for his role in the bombings during the second world war. Unfortunately things don’t go to plan, and a murder is committed.

I thought this book was very enjoyable. The writing walks you through the city of York and gives a great feel for how things would have been during the war, and how they are now. The impressive York Minster takes centre stage, and is the backdrop for the whole of the novel.

The book flits between World War II and modern day. However to me there almost seemed to be two separate elements and I felt that they could almost have been two individual stories. That of the elderly veterans who were trying to come to terms with their past actions, and a more modern day crime involving the two main protagonists, the Rounder brothers. One is a policeman, the other a Private Investigator who is accused of murdering a women he had a one night stand with.

I also felt that some of the scenes were a bit rushed. For example two people falling into a one night stand in the middle of the day after drinking half a bottle of wine didn’t ring true with me, but maybe that just shows my lack of imagination. There seemed almost too many things goings on, the book covers war crimes, conscientious objectors, obsessive partners, teenage pregnancy, dieting, alcoholism, affairs, rape, even dog napping. It all ties up at the end but it does take a bit of concentration.

All the different themes meant that it was a very fast paced book that I read in only a couple of sittings. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the city, and it was fascinating to hear about York in war time. I had not heard of these raids before, so of course I accessed my external memory and Wikipediad them to check they were real. They were the most destructive raids ever felt by York. Apparently the church of St Martin-le-Grand on Coney Street, still has a stained glass window representing the church burning after a bomb fell.

This is the third book written by Julian Cole and all include the Rounder brothers, and I believe are based in York so I’ll keep an eye out for them. A history lesson rolled into a good story is always a winner with me.

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