Divisional Detective Inspector Hardcastle of the Whitehall Division of the Metropolitan Police is summoned to the office of the head of CID himself at the beginning of Hardcastle’s Runaway. He’s never met the Commissioner before, so he knows the matter at hand must be important.
But in fact it’s not. The Commissioner wants him to look for a missing girl, the daughter of a friend who’s a member of Parliament. It’s 1919, the Great War is newly over, and many young women like this one have bobbed their hair (and their skirts) and become what’s known as “flappers.” Inspector Hardcastle puts men on the job to find her, but after a few days she pops up of her own accord. That seems to be the end of the matter.
But the girl disappears again. Inquiries among her gentlemen friends, veteran military officers all, reveal that she was present at a party at a country house, and nobody has seen her since.
There are many influential men who do not wish their relationships with this young girl revealed. But Hardcastle has the Commisioner’s support, and he proceeds with his customary bluntness and tactlessness. In the end, a tragic secret will come to light.
The DDI Hardcastle novels were recommended to me as well-researched books, providing an accurate and realistic picture of London life around World War I. And this book provided that. A lot of research has been done, and it shows. Hardcastle’s Runaway was excellent as a time excursion.
What did not delight me was the main character. I like curmudgeonly heroes just fine (I flatter myself that I’m a curmudgeon myself). But Hardcastle seems to have nothing underneath the crust. He’s crust all through – bullheaded, opinionated, thoughtless of others. He seems to be a type rather than a character. I finally decided all this rudeness was meant to be comic. But it didn’t make me laugh. Maybe it’ll be more to your taste.
I recommend this book from an educational perspective, but as a work of fiction I found it wanting.