Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Broken Heart opens with promise: from the initial minutes of an interview with a retired Los Angeles cop to a London P.I. taking a phone call from a woman in the USA. For the reader working out the time scale and connecting the two events is a mystery in itself.
The current action is here, in England, but the crime was in L.A. over sixty years ago. In fact there were two crimes: the murder of a beautiful woman in a Hollywood hotel and the cover-up that followed. Now, six decades later, a survivor surfaces to bring to justice the perpetrators who are not only alive but celebrated, rich and powerful.
The man caught up in this tale of infamy and vengeance is David Raker, Weaver’s series character: a missing persons investigator who is contacted by a nurse in Minnesota. Her sister, Lynda Korin, has disappeared from a car park on the Somerset coast. Lynda is the widow of an American film director, once promising, even brilliant who, after decades of drink and drugs and being ostracised as a communist, emigrated with Lynda to a secluded cottage in the Mendip Hills. He died without ever divulging some crucial secret to which Lynda holds the clue and which may account for her disappearance. Now the job is to find her, alive or dead.
As Raker starts to investigate the action is helped along by insertions from the interview with the retired LA cop. Between that and Raker’s current meeting with a well-preserved nonagenarian the Hollywood of sixty years ago is brought to life with all its louche and gaudy glamour.
This novel is a must for devotees of old film and films, for lovers of gadgetry and clever crime authors. It’s neat, ingenious and colourful and if one feels that the violence doesn’t always merit its crescendo, and that the motive for destroying a man’s life is somewhat far-fetched, one has to concede that, on the whole and with disbelief suspended, justice has been seen to be done.