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"Bad Penny Blues" by Cathi Unsworth

Bad Penny Blues - Cathi Unsworth

This is the second book I have read by Cathi Unsworth and, in common with The Singer, what impressed me was the clear evocation of the era. In this case, the unsolved "Jack the Stripper" murders that took place near Ladbroke Grove from 1959 to 1965. Cathi Unsworth's noir tale take us on a ride through early-mid 1960s London: a world of bent coppers, teddy boys, sleazy aristocrats, immigrant communities, prostitutes, the occult, bohemians, Soho, art colleges, pop music, and so on.

Real life events (e.g. Cassius Clay taking on Henry Cooper, and the election of Harold Wilson) mingle with thinly disguised fictionalised personalities from the era (e.g. Joe Meek, Heinz, Screaming Lord Sutch, Reggie Kray, and Freddie Mills).

It's a dizzying and impressive achievement, and a book I thoroughly enjoyed. My only criticisms are it's around a hundred pages too long, and there are so many characters who come and go I found it hard to keep track. Fortunately, through the Google Books search facility, I could find the page numbers for characters, and so go back and remind myself who they were and how they fitted in.

Another great book by Cathi Unsworth and recommended for anyone who enjoys well researched, credible, and evocative London fiction. 4/5