D J Taylor is an underrated novelist. Kept was the best of the glut of Victorian pastiches that came out a few years ago. He sets scenes and evokes place and period in an almost painterly way, and this new, very different novel re-creates the London of 1931 so that we feel we are living in it, smelling the smells, eating in the Lyons Corner Houses, smoking Gold Flake. There are hardly any false notes, though once or twice there is an overload of detail carefully placed to convince. On the whole, though, Taylor’s brush strokes are deft and thoroughly professional.
It is described as a thriller but it is not fast-paced enough to merit the description and that is to its advantage. The central character, James Ross, is a man who confides in the reader so engagingly that he worms his way into our affections from the start.