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Tuesday 23 August 2022

‘Blackshirt Masquerade’ by Jason Monaghan.

Published by Level Best Books,
22 March 2022.
IBSN: 978-1-68512-096-2 (PB)

It’s 1935 and the British Union of Fascists is hoping to raise its profile and gain recruits.  Hugh Clifton had returned from India some time ago, having been cashiered from the army.  He is staying with his father in Yorkshire -- and his father wants to know what he intends to do with himself.  An old friend, Charles (one of the few people who know the exact circumstances and unfairness of Hugh’s dismissal from the army) pays Hugh a visit and makes a suggestion.  As a result of this Hugh is recruited by MI5 to infiltrate the BUF, and find out what they are up to - ‘No heroics, just simple straightforward intelligence gathering’ for very little pay.  He joins the movement, and quickly manages to attract the attention of important members of the BFU when he acquits himself with distinction in a fight following a BFU meeting.  The fascist intelligence unit, Department Z, is also interested and, after an uncomfortable interview, he is invited to join the unit.  Hugh meets Sissy, a vivacious brunette and a supporter of the BFU, who is looking for a friend who has vanished and their separate investigations become entwined.  

The main characters are well-described, likeable or not.  Hugh fits the dashing man-of-action role well, and the reader can have empathy with him and other individuals on the edge of events, forced to participate in matters they do not understand.  The story is written around actual events; the historical setting provides atmosphere and background and informs the plot without overwhelming it.  The action moves at a smart pace, with espionage and treachery and plenty of suspense and surprise – a good historical thriller.  This is the first in the Agents of Room Z series and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Reviewer: Jo Hesslelwood
Other books by this author:  Glint of Light on Broken Glass; The Jeffrey Flint Archaeology Mystery Series:  Darkness rises, Byron’s Shadow, Shadesmoor, Lady in the Lake, Blood and Sandals. 

Jason Monaghan  born 1959 in Yorkshire is a novelist and Roman archaeologist. He has also at times been a financial regulator, an anti-money laundering specialist and a bank director. The eccentric side of Archaeology provided the background to his first five novels written under the pen-name of Jason Foss, and he is an active member of the Crime Writers Association. Glint of Light on Broken Glass is his first historical novel. Major projects he has worked on include Britain's most intact Roman ship (from Guernsey), and possibly the only known English Elizabethan shipwreck (off Alderney). His PhD thesis was on the Roman Pottery of Kent and he later published research on pottery from the Roman fortress of York. Each summer since 2009 he has led a group of friends excavating in Alderney, investigating what looks to be Britains finest small Roman fort.

Jo Hesslewood
.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society. 

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