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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling portrait of postwar London
Sian Busby's final book is a tremendous achievement both as a novel and as an example of what an indomitable spirit can achieve. First, the book itself: it's a very good read, with a strong narrative and a stronger sense of place and time: north London, as tatty and battered as its inhabitants immediately after the end of the war. The body of a woman is found on...
Published 14 months ago by Daphne the WonderCat

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Big disappointment.
I so wanted to enjoy this book. Sad to write a bad review in the tragic circumstances of the late Mrs Peston who I understand was "Sian Busby". But hey this is just my view.
A young and slightly naive, but well intentioned, young lady drives a detective during war time England. Well that was a lot of my problem, I couldn't get television's Inspector Foyle...
Published 3 months ago by Oxford Buyer


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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling portrait of postwar London, 7 May 2013
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Sian Busby's final book is a tremendous achievement both as a novel and as an example of what an indomitable spirit can achieve. First, the book itself: it's a very good read, with a strong narrative and a stronger sense of place and time: north London, as tatty and battered as its inhabitants immediately after the end of the war. The body of a woman is found on wasteland, the police investigating wearily assume it's a sexual assault that went wrong. But it turns out not to be the case, so who is the dead woman? A prostitute? If not, how did a "respectable" woman end up strangled?

Busby's characters are a bit squalid, like their physical surroundings; morally compromised (petty criminals, fences, spivs, sleeping with people they shouldn't) but one of Busby's hallmarks as a writer is her empathy with, understanding of and compassion for people and choices that many would dismiss with a judgmental word or two. And so you find yourself caring about the war-traumatised thief, about the diminished husband, about the hard-edged victim, about her brittle, feckless lodger, about the weary police officer who can't do a good enough job.

As well as standing as an achievement in its own right as wonderfully conceived and executed book, A Commonplace Killing is also an extraordinary achievement for Busby, who was dying of cancer as it was being completed. When she died in September 2012, her husband, BBC business editor Robert Peston, found the final part of the book handwritten in her notebook; he transcribed the final pages so that the book could be published posthumously. As he explains in the foreword to the novel, "I did not know, until reading handwriting as familiar as my own and hearing her voice in my head, that she had finished this exquisite work."

Where Peston's transcription takes over is noted in the book; I'm not sure that a reader would otherwise spot the join. Perhaps the final few pages are a little more sparse than the prose that precedes it, but that sparseness is appropriate to the bleakness of the end of the book. The love with which the book was completed gives A Commonplace Killing a redemptive and emotional power that the narrative itself deliberately doesn't provide: there's little redemptive about the narrative that unfolds.

Any book is a labour of love. This one, which stands on its own two feet as a very good novel by any standards, is doubly so, given the circumstances in which it was written and the circumstances in which it was finished. I'd recommend it without the coda of its completion; the achievement that it represents makes it outstanding.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Murder Mystery, 4 Jun 2013
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ACB (swansea) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
In post-war Holloway, north London in 1946, two boys discover the body of a woman on a bomb site. The immediate response from the police is that it is a sex-related murder "a commonplace killing", a remark tossed in by a detective in a casual, dismissive way. The site was a haunt for courting couples. Detective Inspector Jim Cooper may be disgruntled at the post-war crime boom and his own shabby, lonely life but he is street-wise. He has a pragmatic view of lawbreakers - they do it because they can - and is determined to find the culprit who strangled Lillian Frobisher along with the motive, sensing it is someone in the locality.

Lillian's husband, Walter, has returned home from war to a bomb-damaged house, a wife who no longer loves him, a frail incontinent mother-in-law and a lodger who does not pay her rent. His prospects are not bright. Lillian is desperate to escape this scenario. She even misses the odd fling that she had during the war. Now her domestic life is depressing; rationing , shortages, queuing ,the black market are everyday events. The story leading to Lillian's murder is set against the bleak and authentic atmosphere of a run down crime-ridden area filled with vivid imagery of a ruined area. Sian Busby's narrative utilises the dialect of the times portraying in graphic detail the features of the location 'heavy with loneliness, shadowy with the ruin of lives and homes'. She draws her characters in a way they can readily be identified with by the reader.

Sian Busby has written an impressive authoritative novel of authenticity. It is melancholic, atmospheric and heart-rending. The circumstances surrounding the publication of this book are well-known and add to the sense of loss and poignancy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, gripping read, 15 Jan 2014
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It's been a long time since I sat up half the night to finish a book, but I did with this one. Not only does it leave you guessing about the perpetrator until almost the end, it brings the taste and feel of what it must have been like to live in post-war Britain. Good storyline, brilliant descriptive writing. Would definitely recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Big disappointment., 8 April 2014
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I so wanted to enjoy this book. Sad to write a bad review in the tragic circumstances of the late Mrs Peston who I understand was "Sian Busby". But hey this is just my view.
A young and slightly naive, but well intentioned, young lady drives a detective during war time England. Well that was a lot of my problem, I couldn't get television's Inspector Foyle out of my head long enough to really appreciate the characters here. I struggled and half way through I am afraid to say I gave up. I do hope someone will say that the plot from halfway was an absolute cracker and kept them on the edge of their seat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Postwar Blues, 1 April 2014
This review is from: A Commonplace Killing (Paperback)
This book leaves you touching and feeling the brick dust and grime of 1946 London. The sense of despair and "when will it get better" hangs over the book like a London smog. The cafes and pubs are filthy, the houses collapsing around their inhabitants - a very strong sense of place. The characters are also well drawn, with a three way third person multiple viewpoint which takes a little getting used to at first.
It's not really a whodunnit - we can guess the victim and the murderer from the start - but the suspense is around whether the depressed Cooper will ever catch his man, and the details of why and how the deed was committed. In the end you feel sorry for all the major characters, with only the young Douglas and PC Tring carrying the hope for the future. A great read, and a great shame that Sian Busby will write no more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars As all good detectives know...., 3 Aug 2013
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Despite my initial reservations about the subject matter, I did really enjoy the plot and characters. However, the constant phrase of "as all good detectives know" really irritated me & I think they overplayed that hand. Really enjoyed the correct historical references to the Met Police of the post war years & the introspective feelings of Cooper. In all - would recommend to others
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a good read, 9 July 2013
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I listened to a bit of it on the radio and wanted to know what happened. It was a quiet, thoughtful book, with good period feel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good tale., 30 May 2013
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Really good story with characters you related to. Enjoyed the scene setting and the use of language common in those years.

Excellent.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Wonderful., 2 Jun 2013
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This book completely transported me back to post war North London. The characters were believable and the area was bought to life. I got a sense of the fashion, rationing, interiors and atmosphere of the time. I loved every page of this story and it is beautifully written. What a wonderful woman Sian Busby was.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read., 19 May 2013
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Excellent descriptive writing. A story that unfolds from two, quite different directions but makes you want to know more. And you do!
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A Commonplace Killing
A Commonplace Killing by Sian Busby (Paperback - 2 Jan 2014)
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