The Dirty Rascal
paul symonloe, author
Synopsis: The Dirty Rascal. The setting for this crime thriller is Windsor in Berkshire. The time is contemporary, but the main characters become strongly aware of modern versus medieval forces at work. Windsor has history and mystery, a special backdrop, distinct from any other small town in England. Windsor is the quintessential castle-town, home to the current Queen, Elizabeth the Second of the House of Windsor. Slough is just up the road, extending its gritty modern reality into the tale. Lieutenant Zac Dolby, a young American detective is plucked from his Bronx tenement, his job with the NYPD and his everyday life. The contrast of the grainy rain-sodden island in the old world is a shock. He partners the magnetic Abbi Matilda, his English police “oppo”, an attractive and intelligent English woman with a dry sense of humour. The horrific slaying of a Mute Swan, a possession of the Queen, in Slough’s Queensmere Shopping Mall, prompts the aging but sharp-witted Chief Inspector George Pawley to push the two young DI’s to find out what has happened. History, tradition and mystery versus the outgoing objective American “upstart” Yank, are thrown into relief. The two young “oppos” get started on the hunt to find out what is happening and who knows about it. The colour and pageantry of Windsor in all its vibrancy is a stage for the mystery, as is the Magna Carta, and Runnymede a crow’s flight away. Murders follow a horrible course, with medieval torture instruments the theme. Eton with its world renowned boys’ Public School, Eton College, is part of the canvass, as is the grim and grimy Police HQ in Reading. The slayings continue and include an Eton housemaster, a publican, and a shopping mall manager. The motif of the ancient versus the modern is developed by the inclusion of the story of reference to the Scottish suppression at the Battle of the Boyne. Equally the frustrations of the rule by the English still fester, and the Scots desire to rule themselves imparts intriguing possibilities for the plot. Zac’s Jewish upbringing and inquisitive nature, coupled with his open character allow him to see the local towns and institutions such as like Windsor Guildhall, Eton College and the Brits through new eyes. It is all the revealing by contrast with his own life and upbringing in the Bronx. This is brought out strongly in meeting the widow of the murdered housemaster, Abbi herself and the English Police. The young American is insightful and bright, a good foil for the feisty Abbi Matilda, who teases him over the newness of his country and his funny manners and language. The police investigation is marked by meetings at the grimy Police HQ in Reading, where the sage George Pawley holds court over the police rank and file. DI Wylie, also based in Windsor, a sulky contrast to the two other DI’s. He gets things wrong, holds a torch for Abbi, and resents the brighter, more charismatic American. The pace of the book picks up speed as we pass the halfway mark, with more pressure applied by the weathered Chief Superintendent George Pawley. Lines of enquiry span everything from investigating the background to the dead swan, to exploring the majestic Guildhall’s underground passages. Windsor, Eton, Slough, The River Thames, Windsor Castle and the Guildhall are all brought to life with cinematic vitality. The genealogy and origins of a number of central characters begin to reveal some shocking truths. The past and lessons from history that have been overlooked steadily catch us up us we move towards a truly cataclysmic finale.