Taylor has switched effortlessly forward in time from his Kept:
A Victorian Mystery to
the deep depression of Thirties Britain to bring us an atmospheric tale
revolving around Ross, a would-be writer, behind with the rent and
reduced to selling cleansing fluids door-to-door (ah, memory, it all
comes back...). The tone reflects the pinched and petty flavour of
those days and the hard-scrabble existence uncomprehensible to any
modern reader whose parents are under eighty. Yet there’s a lightness
here and little to bring you down, largely because Ross stays
determinedly chipper throughout, despite being blind to the scams and
catastrophes at work and the criminal lifestyle of the glamorous Susie –
‘a vision of red hair and white silk stockings’ – and her urbane boss.
All the elements of noir are
here, as we see Ross setting himself up for a fall (with Susie’s help) –
but will he
fall or can he slide through as always?