The War Widow by Tara Moss

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Thanks to Penguin Group/Dutton and Net Galley for providing me with a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

            For her 11th novel, Canadian/Australian author Tara Moss, starts a new mystery series which focuses on Billie Walker. Billie is a female Investigation Agent in Sydney, Australia, and this book is set shortly after the end of World War 2. She is an anomaly because it appears she is the only female Investigation Agent in Sydney. Luckily for Billie, her dad had been a policeman and then quit to open this agency, and after his death Billie takes over the business.

            There is a lot going on in this book, in addition to having us get acquainted with all the supporting characters, including her male secretary (a wounded war veteran), her mother and mother’s maid, and a reluctant but decent police detective. All of these characters play a big part in her case of trying to find a young man who has disappeared. It might seem to be a case that will be easy to resolve, but the deeper Billie gets into the investigation there are more layers to this case than first meet the eye.

            As a side case, Billie is friends with an aboriginal girl named Shyla and we learn how the aboriginals were treated at that time – being torn apart from their families and placed in schools where they are taught how to be domestic servants for wealthy Australian families. Shyla’s friends, however, were placed at a location far from Sydney, kept incommunicado, and fearing for their safety Shyla asks Billie’s help in locating them.

            The action takes place in a little over a week, as Billie pursues leads at a local Dance Club, a high class auction house and even travels over three hours away to the famed Blue Mountains of Australia. The action and adventure never stops, as Billie seems to go from the frying pan into the fire, literally, as she exposes the truth behind both the disappearance of the young man, as well as the missing aboriginal girls.

            What also makes this book so different from others is its setting. So many books on World War 2 and its aftermath are set in Europe or America, and it is absolutely refreshing to see a novel, such as this, set in Australia which has been overlooked for decades as a site of fallout from that war. Billie, herself, was a journalist during the war and covered events in Germany and Austria, and while there she fell in love and married a photographer who he was taken captive. Billie has no idea if he is dead or alive, thus her mother declares Billie a “War Widow” like so many other women in Australia and throughout the world whose husbands either are MIA or killed and whose bodies are never identified. It is a difficult world for these ladies, and Billie Walker is a struggling survivor who seems destined to take us on many more adventures and mysteries.

Bottom Line: For fans of Tara Moss, Billie Walker is a wonderful new character and takes us through both some history and mysteries in the overlooked setting of Australia.This review was previously published at www.mysteryandsuspense.com

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