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Forests of the Night

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Forests of the Night introduces the intrepid John Hawke, an exciting new detective operating in London during the Blitz. When World War II breaks out in London, young policeman John Hawke enlists in the army. His dreams of fighting for his country, however, are cut short after he loses an eye in rifle training. Invalided out of the army and offered a desk job with the polic Forests of the Night introduces the intrepid John Hawke, an exciting new detective operating in London during the Blitz. When World War II breaks out in London, young policeman John Hawke enlists in the army. His dreams of fighting for his country, however, are cut short after he loses an eye in rifle training. Invalided out of the army and offered a desk job with the police, John sets up as a private investigator in London instead, hoping for excitement and danger. In the autumn of 1940, John is engaged to investigate the mysterious death of a young woman. What is the connection between her brutal murder and the fading film actor Gordon Moore? Johnny also becomes involved in the plight of a runaway boy who may have witnessed something terrible. Told with wit and humor, while evoking an atmospheric picture of the home front during the dark days of the Second World War, Forests of the Night is an impressive U.S. debut for David Stuart Davies.


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Forests of the Night introduces the intrepid John Hawke, an exciting new detective operating in London during the Blitz. When World War II breaks out in London, young policeman John Hawke enlists in the army. His dreams of fighting for his country, however, are cut short after he loses an eye in rifle training. Invalided out of the army and offered a desk job with the polic Forests of the Night introduces the intrepid John Hawke, an exciting new detective operating in London during the Blitz. When World War II breaks out in London, young policeman John Hawke enlists in the army. His dreams of fighting for his country, however, are cut short after he loses an eye in rifle training. Invalided out of the army and offered a desk job with the police, John sets up as a private investigator in London instead, hoping for excitement and danger. In the autumn of 1940, John is engaged to investigate the mysterious death of a young woman. What is the connection between her brutal murder and the fading film actor Gordon Moore? Johnny also becomes involved in the plight of a runaway boy who may have witnessed something terrible. Told with wit and humor, while evoking an atmospheric picture of the home front during the dark days of the Second World War, Forests of the Night is an impressive U.S. debut for David Stuart Davies.

30 review for Forests of the Night

  1. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Barred from serving in the Army after a training accident costs him an eye, ex-policeman Johnny Hawke establishes himself as a PI in 1940 London and investigates the murder of a young woman. Not a bad mystery, but the pace dragged, the romance-y subplot was entirely superfluous, and it lacked atmosphere.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kelly

    Murder mystery set in WWII London is more interesting for the relationships between new P. I. Johnny Hawke and two other characters: a young runaway and a woman with a secret. In both instances, Davies appears to be laying Book 1-in-the-series groundwork, so both relationships are of course open ended. The resolution to the murder mystery was too far-fetched for me based upon the preliminary character development of the culprit. Davies must have thought so too, as there is a somewhat lengthy and Murder mystery set in WWII London is more interesting for the relationships between new P. I. Johnny Hawke and two other characters: a young runaway and a woman with a secret. In both instances, Davies appears to be laying Book 1-in-the-series groundwork, so both relationships are of course open ended. The resolution to the murder mystery was too far-fetched for me based upon the preliminary character development of the culprit. Davies must have thought so too, as there is a somewhat lengthy and, of course, anti-climactic exposition post resolution of the crime. The WWII element is mostly atmospheric and really adds nothing of substance to the story; that is, substitute the trappings of any other twentieth century time and location and you would have the same story. For instance, the same could not be said of Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May series, where London and its history are, in effect, an additional character affecting the action at almost every turn. Before his Barker and Llewelyn series lapsed into a coma, Will Thomas was also able to create the city as character element in his early books. Overall I found Forests of the Night a little dull with all the suspects being passive pathetic victim types rather than actual people who possess some attributes that make them interesting to the reader. Obviously, not everyone is a Charles Dickens, but good fictional characters have some quirks or behavior where the reader can separate one from the other. When the reader can't distinguish one from the other, the murderer has to be explained, which is what happens in this book. Also, there is a shaming scene where the detective makes the totally unrepentant villain sorry for the crime by revealing an awful truth. I know shaming is immensely popular with contemporary earthlings and millions will applaud, but here the "take this, you scoundrel" revelation designed to punish the culprit and the response it evokes seem unbelievable based upon what we know about the two characters: I was totally surprised that the murderer cared at all given the psychological profile the author has just gone to great lengths to present. I was also surprised that our hero would kick someone when they were down; he has already tried to reason with the murderer and we learn that the murderer is way beyond any self-understanding or any human empathy. Instead of portraying this as learning experience for the young detective, the author uses him as an instrument of punishment that rings false as Johnny seems satisfied with his effort and the results it brings. It is a today, trendy device artificially grafted on to a heretofore much nobler (and totally non-vicious) character and also serves to undercut what is otherwise a potentially interesting scene, in which we could have witnessed the personal growth of the main character as he gets his first in-depth look at a sociopath. This is important as Johnny lives in 1940 and cannot just turn on the TV and watch the political news.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nicki

    I liked Johnny Hawke and his first outing as a detective. As a private detective in war-torn London, Johnny's up against it, dodgy Luftwaffe bombs as well as villains, but this book does a good job of setting up Johnny as a character I can get behind. The case itself has elements of noir - a tragic, beautiful woman meeting a sticky end while the hard-boiled PI skulks around trying to solve the mystery - but is not really that compelling. Too many of the side characters seemed to meld into version I liked Johnny Hawke and his first outing as a detective. As a private detective in war-torn London, Johnny's up against it, dodgy Luftwaffe bombs as well as villains, but this book does a good job of setting up Johnny as a character I can get behind. The case itself has elements of noir - a tragic, beautiful woman meeting a sticky end while the hard-boiled PI skulks around trying to solve the mystery - but is not really that compelling. Too many of the side characters seemed to meld into versions of the same character. And the denouement was somewhat improbable and smacked more than a little of the author thinking too hard to come up with a twist. Despite that, I would pick up the second Johnny Hawke book to see how our one-eyed hero is faring.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    1940 and for Johnny Hawke for war is already over. The ex-policeman and invalid decides to become a private detective. Life is not going well until the Palfreys approach him to find their missing daughter. But the case leads to murder. His life becomes complicated when he gets involved with the runaway Peter. An enjoyable and interesting well-written read. A good solid start to this series.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie Mancini

    With Forests of the Night, the first installment of the Johnny Hawke novels, David Stuart Davies deviates from his realm of Sherlock Holmes and introduces a character that author Val McDermid phrased as a "hero with a heart". Johnny Hawke is a compassionate private investigator who is afflicted with the impairment of having only one eye, a casualty of a gun misfiring during his first week after joining the army to serve his country. This new series takes place in 1940. The place is London during With Forests of the Night, the first installment of the Johnny Hawke novels, David Stuart Davies deviates from his realm of Sherlock Holmes and introduces a character that author Val McDermid phrased as a "hero with a heart". Johnny Hawke is a compassionate private investigator who is afflicted with the impairment of having only one eye, a casualty of a gun misfiring during his first week after joining the army to serve his country. This new series takes place in 1940. The place is London during WWII's famous Blitz where the Germans daily bombard the city with nightly attacks leaving London scrambling for cover when air raids warn of incoming planes that will rain destruction killing many people each and every night. Discharged from the army as disabled, Johnny Hawke turns hard boiled detective and opens up his own private investigation office. The story opens with a visit from a Mr. and Mrs. Palfrey asking Johnny to help them find their missing daughter Pamela who appears to have dropped out of existence two months ago. The next day following their interview, Pamela is found dead in her bed, stabbed through the heart in cold blooded murder. It's now up to Johnny to uncover the clues to why she was so brutally killed, and why she had turned to prostitution and changed her name to Pammie Palmer. With many suspects all clamoring to give Johnny the slip, this is a pretty straightforward old fashioned who-dunit in the style of Dashell Hammett or Mickey Spillane. Johnny Hawke however is not the usual cold brutish P.I. There are scenes of Johnny falling in love with the girl, temporarily adopting a small street urchin who worms his way into Johnny's heart and home, and many pages of him showing compassion and kindness even amidst the hardships of war and within the criminal minds we see as the bad guys. Perhaps just a little sappy and corny due to the lifestyle simplicity of the 40's time period, but for those who love the Noir style murder mysteries, and for readers like me who get tired of the contemporary serial killer violent mysteries being pumped out by the thousands for shock effect, I loved this flash to the past entertaining murder-come-lightly. This is the era of trench coats and fedora hats, rotary telephones, and when scripts for books and movies were right out of Casablanca or Dick Tracy. I can't wait to read the rest of the series now that I've found this one-eyed chivalrous private eye! For something fun and out of the ordinary, give Johnny Hawke a chance!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Fictionophile

    His name is Johnny Hawke. Ironic because he lost one eye in a military training accident. That coupled with the blackouts of the WWII London Blitz and his eyesight is less than ‘hawk-like’. However you’ll find that what he lacks in visual ability he makes up for in intuition. Before the war began Johnny was a policeman. Now, because of his disability the force wants him to do desk work. Still young and yearning for more excitement, this defeats his whole reasoning for being a policeman so he quit His name is Johnny Hawke. Ironic because he lost one eye in a military training accident. That coupled with the blackouts of the WWII London Blitz and his eyesight is less than ‘hawk-like’. However you’ll find that what he lacks in visual ability he makes up for in intuition. Before the war began Johnny was a policeman. Now, because of his disability the force wants him to do desk work. Still young and yearning for more excitement, this defeats his whole reasoning for being a policeman so he quits the force and sets up shop as a private investigator. The parents of a young woman hire Johnny to investigate their missing daughter. He soon learns that their ‘sweet and innocent’ girl is actually a young prostitute that has recently been murdered. He is intrigued as the victim seems to have led a double life. He pursues the murder investigation even after the murdered girl’s parents call him off the case. Peter, a young homeless boy crosses paths with Hawke. Peter reminds Johnny of himself as an orphaned child and he takes a keen interest in Peter’s plight. Peter, suspicious of anyone and everyone, resists Hawke’s interest in him and sets out on his own again. A series of events lead up to Peter witnessing vital evidence in Hawke’s murder case. Both Hawke and Peter end up hospitalized just when it seems the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.. With a brooding, noir feel, the author creates the Blitz atmosphere so keenly that you can almost hear the rustle of black-out curtains and the German planes overhead. Written by an expert on Sherlock Holmes, “Forests of the Night” is an excellent debut to a series that will appeal to lovers of period pieces as well as those who prefer a solid whodunit with a nice ending twist.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Candy Wood

    Interesting question here: should a private-eye novel set in the 1940s give the impression of having been written in the 1940s? This one mostly does, from the narrator’s frequent lighting of Craven A cigarettes to his and other characters’ consumption of gin. The situation is traditional too, the ex-cop turning private detective after a training accident results in his army discharge, and a missing-person case that turns into more than one murder. Johnny Hawke isn’t as hard-boiled as the traditi Interesting question here: should a private-eye novel set in the 1940s give the impression of having been written in the 1940s? This one mostly does, from the narrator’s frequent lighting of Craven A cigarettes to his and other characters’ consumption of gin. The situation is traditional too, the ex-cop turning private detective after a training accident results in his army discharge, and a missing-person case that turns into more than one murder. Johnny Hawke isn’t as hard-boiled as the traditional detective, though, and some loose ends suggest that some personal relationships, not just professional rivalry with policemen, might carry over into sequels. Alternation between first-person and third-person narrative gives readers more clues than Johnny has but can be misleading, again in the whodunit tradition. I’m not convinced by the setting, London in the Blitz--despite place names like Regent’s Park and Bermondsey and scattered references to bombing and shelters, any city would do. Still, an enjoyable read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Hawley

    Because I will read any fiction about England in the 1930s and 40s, this series greatly intrigued me. Here is an English policeman who enlists in the army at the beginning of World War II and almost immediately gets into a firearms accident in training and loses an eye. No longer wanted by the military nor the police, John Hawke becomes a private investigor during wartime. His first case involves a murdered young woman who was plain and shy at her parents' house and a high class prostitute on he Because I will read any fiction about England in the 1930s and 40s, this series greatly intrigued me. Here is an English policeman who enlists in the army at the beginning of World War II and almost immediately gets into a firearms accident in training and loses an eye. No longer wanted by the military nor the police, John Hawke becomes a private investigor during wartime. His first case involves a murdered young woman who was plain and shy at her parents' house and a high class prostitute on her own. Hawke also gets involved with a runaway child who becomes a witness for the crime. Who killed Pamela Palfrey? Was it the aging filmstar, her former employer, the solicitor, both whom were madly in love with her or her pimp boyfriend? Hawke is a cynical, world weary character set in the London of the Blitz with its own fatalism. I am interested to see how David Stuart Davies continues this series as the first book has potential.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Trilby

    One of the good things about this book is that it's only 232 pages, and I skimmed over a good percentage of them. People could use this book as a substitute for Lunesta; the bland style will have you snoring in no time. Like Lawton's "Bluffing Mr. Churchill" this mystery is set in wartime London. Unlike in Lawton's book, all the characters here talk the same...no dialect, little slang, no class differences in diction. There's also very little evocation of the terror of the bombings, the city lai One of the good things about this book is that it's only 232 pages, and I skimmed over a good percentage of them. People could use this book as a substitute for Lunesta; the bland style will have you snoring in no time. Like Lawton's "Bluffing Mr. Churchill" this mystery is set in wartime London. Unlike in Lawton's book, all the characters here talk the same...no dialect, little slang, no class differences in diction. There's also very little evocation of the terror of the bombings, the city laid waste. In addition, the shifting point of view is confusing and messy, with parts narrated by Hawke and others by an omniscient narrator. I don't much fancy the cheesy name of the protagonist. And Billy Blake should be rotating in his grave at the stupid allusion to "The Tyger" in the book's title and in the name of a character, movie hero "Tiger Blake." "Fearful symmetry" this ain't. It's more like "dreadful dissonance".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ken B

    I have been impressed with David Stuart Davies since reading a couple of his horror genre Sherlock Holmes novels. His story lines are tight and his characters are well developed and interesting. This book is the first in the Johnny Hawke detective series. It is a classic noir / hardboiled novel in the tradition of Sam Spade. Consistent with other Davies works, this one is very well written. Set in WWII-era London, our hero has set up a private detective agency after being wounded and released from I have been impressed with David Stuart Davies since reading a couple of his horror genre Sherlock Holmes novels. His story lines are tight and his characters are well developed and interesting. This book is the first in the Johnny Hawke detective series. It is a classic noir / hardboiled novel in the tradition of Sam Spade. Consistent with other Davies works, this one is very well written. Set in WWII-era London, our hero has set up a private detective agency after being wounded and released from army service. He is drawn into a murder case that has several intriguing twists and turns. Pulpish in nature, this series has been a fun read. 4 STARS

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fran Severn

    An OK read, but not gripping. Davie tries to merge the atmospheric setting of wartime London with the hard-boiled noir of Sam Snead. More focus and detail would have worked better. The story is interesting enough, with a case of a double-life of a young woman, frantic parents, many suspects with secrets to hide, and some stereotypical London detectives. OK for killing time on a plane, perhaps, but nothing to stay up all night reading.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This is the second mystery book set in the second world war I have read this year and I have not thought much of either of them. This book was too simple int he writing and I really did not like the first person style. Although maybe I'll read the next one to see what happens to the characters. This is the second mystery book set in the second world war I have read this year and I have not thought much of either of them. This book was too simple int he writing and I really did not like the first person style. Although maybe I'll read the next one to see what happens to the characters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    GlenK

    This well plotted detective novel is a quick read but I had a problem with it. The setting of London 1940 with the blitz and the blackout is extremely dramatic but these elements are seldom mentioned and then only in passing. The book's lack of a strong feel for time and place rendered it less effective I feel. This well plotted detective novel is a quick read but I had a problem with it. The setting of London 1940 with the blitz and the blackout is extremely dramatic but these elements are seldom mentioned and then only in passing. The book's lack of a strong feel for time and place rendered it less effective I feel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    If you are looking for a light distraction in the vein of Christie and the cozies, you could do a lot worse. It's very "just the facts" and could use some more descriptions and red herrings. This book is slight, but entertaining and I expect that other books in the series might be better. If you are looking for a light distraction in the vein of Christie and the cozies, you could do a lot worse. It's very "just the facts" and could use some more descriptions and red herrings. This book is slight, but entertaining and I expect that other books in the series might be better.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    simple story about a mother who kills her daughter to "save" her from being a whore. Typical private eye with a twist that really makes the book suck. And the plot is so simple, as well as the grammar, that I didn't care much for this book. simple story about a mother who kills her daughter to "save" her from being a whore. Typical private eye with a twist that really makes the book suck. And the plot is so simple, as well as the grammar, that I didn't care much for this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mom

    Interesting and entertaining. British mystery which takes place in World War II England. Old fashioned sleuthing, fun mystery gives a neat perspective of wartime England

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ace

    Loved the atmosphere and the history but the story seemed bland. No sense if this will be a series or not.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    leaning towards 3.5 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    I thought this was pretty fun. It was a detective story set in London in 1940. Is it going to change my life? No, but it was a quick read, entertaining, and enjoyable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Clovis

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Blake

  22. 5 out of 5

    JH

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marcia Drane

  24. 5 out of 5

    Roy Wright

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Peter Hart

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sharyn Lehrke

  29. 5 out of 5

    Deraifu

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

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