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Plenty Under the Counter (Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics)

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David hesitated. He knew the story well enough. He knew what had happened on the sunny Sunday morning of the outbreak of war, when the papers were too packed out with real news to have more than a line or so for the sudden death of the old Marquis of Leafe, in a flat in Jermyn Street. He knew that Miss Trindle had been the book-keeper at that shady block of flats, and that David hesitated. He knew the story well enough. He knew what had happened on the sunny Sunday morning of the outbreak of war, when the papers were too packed out with real news to have more than a line or so for the sudden death of the old Marquis of Leafe, in a flat in Jermyn Street. He knew that Miss Trindle had been the book-keeper at that shady block of flats, and that she had arrived in Terrapin Road within two hours of the Marquis’s death . . . London, 1942. Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house. With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder. Drawn into a world of intrigue and double-dealing, he soon realizes that there is more to the inhabitants of the boarding house than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive. Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?


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David hesitated. He knew the story well enough. He knew what had happened on the sunny Sunday morning of the outbreak of war, when the papers were too packed out with real news to have more than a line or so for the sudden death of the old Marquis of Leafe, in a flat in Jermyn Street. He knew that Miss Trindle had been the book-keeper at that shady block of flats, and that David hesitated. He knew the story well enough. He knew what had happened on the sunny Sunday morning of the outbreak of war, when the papers were too packed out with real news to have more than a line or so for the sudden death of the old Marquis of Leafe, in a flat in Jermyn Street. He knew that Miss Trindle had been the book-keeper at that shady block of flats, and that she had arrived in Terrapin Road within two hours of the Marquis’s death . . . London, 1942. Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house. With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder. Drawn into a world of intrigue and double-dealing, he soon realizes that there is more to the inhabitants of the boarding house than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive. Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

30 review for Plenty Under the Counter (Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alwynne

    Kathleen Hewitt’s 1943 whodunnit’s set in London during the Blitz. On leave from the air force, former actor David Heron’s staying at his old theatrical digs, Mrs Meake’s boarding-house, when a corpse appears at the bottom of her garden, and he’s drawn into the investigation. Hewitt’s mystery is marvellous for its meticulous recreation of urban life in wartime, a xenophobic world of seedy boarding-houses, greasy cafes, and black-market racketeering, Hewitt’s cast of characters includes a genteel Kathleen Hewitt’s 1943 whodunnit’s set in London during the Blitz. On leave from the air force, former actor David Heron’s staying at his old theatrical digs, Mrs Meake’s boarding-house, when a corpse appears at the bottom of her garden, and he’s drawn into the investigation. Hewitt’s mystery is marvellous for its meticulous recreation of urban life in wartime, a xenophobic world of seedy boarding-houses, greasy cafes, and black-market racketeering, Hewitt’s cast of characters includes a genteel spinster with a scandalous past, a chorus-girl turned landlady with a heart of gold, a garrulous barmaid with a mysterious scar, the obligatory femme fatale and a whole host of deeply suspicious figures. Not a particularly memorable story, despite some amusing lines, the pace’s a little too leisurely for my taste and it’s a bit heavy on the details. Hewitt edges towards Brighton Rock territory in the final chapters but Plenty Under the Counter's mostly light and reasonably entertaining. I’d never heard of Kathleen Hewitt but seems she was a prolific crime writer, veteran of London’s bedsitter land and part of Soho’s bohemian set along with Jacob Epstein, Dylan Thomas and local eccentrics like Nina Hamnett. Her novel’s been republished in a series of WW2 classics from the Imperial War Museum resurrecting work that’s fallen into obscurity. Based on this I wouldn’t rush to track down her other novels but I wouldn’t swerve to avoid them either.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary Picken

    Gosh, this is a cracker of a book. I’m a sucker for novels set in a different time that take us back and allow us to know how it was – in this case to be living in London in the then. Of course Kathleen Hewitt was writing of her time and that means her backdrop is authentic and her language just spot on. Cigarettes are ‘gaspers’ and the shop that features heavily on the book is a ‘Fancy Goods Emporium’. Set in the midst of the Blitz, Plenty Under the Counter concerns Flt. David Heron of the RAF w Gosh, this is a cracker of a book. I’m a sucker for novels set in a different time that take us back and allow us to know how it was – in this case to be living in London in the then. Of course Kathleen Hewitt was writing of her time and that means her backdrop is authentic and her language just spot on. Cigarettes are ‘gaspers’ and the shop that features heavily on the book is a ‘Fancy Goods Emporium’. Set in the midst of the Blitz, Plenty Under the Counter concerns Flt. David Heron of the RAF who is on convalescent leave, as a result of a slight aeriel dispute with a Jerry. He’s been recovering for four months and has a week left before he returns to his Spitfires, or kites, as he callsthem. Heron, a former actor, is a debonair young man who has been awarded the DFC. He is also a young man in a hurry. He has found the girl of his dreams in Tess Carmichael. She is a children’s nurse working at a day nursery looking after the children who have not been evacuated or whose homes have been bombed during the Blitz. Heron is determined to get Tess to marry him before the week is out. Heron is staying in a boarding house he frequents on a regular basis when on leave and this book is, in the main, centred on the characters there. And what characters they are! On his first night, a man is murdered in the back garden of his lodgings. No-one knows who he is, but Heron is driven to investigate. As he does so, he learns more about his landlady Mrs Meake, once a treader of the stage boards and her daughter Thelma, a girl who is no better than she ought to be. Meake is something of a mother figure to Heron and she also employs a domestic called Annie, Though times are hard, Mrs Meake has managed to install telephone extensions in all her bedrooms and Heron himself is not averse to jumping in taxis and taking his young lady to the Savoy or similar establishments. So this is not a working class novel; these people are more of a reflection of Kathleen Hewitt’s own background. As Heron investigates he comes up against the working of the Black Market, the main way of racketeers enhancing their profits during wartime. In the course of his investigations he will come up against sinister looking foreigners, racketeers and people with secrets to hide a plenty. In his efforts he will be aided by the local police in the form of Inspector Gracewell. Hewitt writes with brio. Her central characters are spirited and full of good humour and positivity, essential for any wartime novel. She has created a range of characters each of whom hides a secret – some more exotic than others – and the whole positively sings with mystery, not unlike an Agatha Christie novel. Verdict: A definite page turner, full of mystery, murder and a few deft twists that brings home the atmosphere of blitz torn London and young people full of spirit.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Book collector

    First published in 1943 this story of murder and black marketeering is great fun. The plot is good and is based on the author's wartime experiences apparently. The lead character of David Heron is engaging and he is ably supported by a set of well drawn characters. The writing is good. It's a light, funny read that has a fairly dark tale underpinning it. I enjoyed this book a lot. It kept me interested and entertained. I did guess the murderer but I read a lot of crime books so I'm used to spott First published in 1943 this story of murder and black marketeering is great fun. The plot is good and is based on the author's wartime experiences apparently. The lead character of David Heron is engaging and he is ably supported by a set of well drawn characters. The writing is good. It's a light, funny read that has a fairly dark tale underpinning it. I enjoyed this book a lot. It kept me interested and entertained. I did guess the murderer but I read a lot of crime books so I'm used to spotting things. The book is 78 years old so remember the social norms and attitudes of the day. Great fun and a welcome reprint courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Thelastwordreview

    There is something about an old wartime classic murder mystery unlike any other similar murder mystery of any other time period. Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt was originally written at the height of WWII and is now re-released by The Imperial War Museum for a new generation to discover. London during the blitz and FL David Heron is resting at one of the many boarding houses after rescued from the channel. A body has been discovered in the back garden of a man and it is murder. What There is something about an old wartime classic murder mystery unlike any other similar murder mystery of any other time period. Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt was originally written at the height of WWII and is now re-released by The Imperial War Museum for a new generation to discover. London during the blitz and FL David Heron is resting at one of the many boarding houses after rescued from the channel. A body has been discovered in the back garden of a man and it is murder. What does David Heron do, does he let the police investigate or does focus on his health and get back to fighting the Germans in the skies above London. The city is in the mist of the blitz and London at night is a dark and sinister place. Ideal for criminals and crime is rife especially in the black market. So now David decides to take on the investigation for himself and the owner of the boarding house Mrs Meake is convinced the house was all locked up and secure and David slept through. There are a few red herrings in the story to keep you guessing as well as a host of great characters who each play their part in this crime caper. This is wonderful crime story of the time and our intrepid investigator really does play the part very well. The storyline keeps the reader entertained all the way through. Kathleen Hewitt (1893 – 1980) wrote 23 books and many were of the crime genre. With the release of four Wartime Classics by the Imperial War Museum to commemorate the outbreak of World War Two. A chance for a new generation of readers to read novels from writers who came through the war years either in the forces or living through the blitz.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Browning

    Honestly this is why I grudge through acres of lacklustre crime novels, in the hope of finding a gem like this. Beautifully, zippily written with a real eye for dialogue and detail, the novel’s true genius is how wonderfully it balances crime romp with a dark portrait of London in the middle of the Second World War. That it manages to do so without lurching wildly within tone and style is a minor miracle It starts off as a sort of enjoyably dark thriller romp, something like a more adult Hue and Honestly this is why I grudge through acres of lacklustre crime novels, in the hope of finding a gem like this. Beautifully, zippily written with a real eye for dialogue and detail, the novel’s true genius is how wonderfully it balances crime romp with a dark portrait of London in the middle of the Second World War. That it manages to do so without lurching wildly within tone and style is a minor miracle It starts off as a sort of enjoyably dark thriller romp, something like a more adult Hue and Cry. Our hero and heroine are delightfully upper middle class and witty and very likeable. There’s lots of comedy characters, all of whom are etched rather wonderfully and whose stories come to an end satisfyingly as either comedy or tragedy or somewhere in between. By the end of it the book has gone into some very dark places and takes some deeply brave decisions in terms of the narrative. The final chapters go from romantic to knockabout comedy to genuine tragedy and never feel like they lurch while doing this And the main thing I love about crime fiction of this period is how much it reveals about the world it came from and this does that in spades. Casual jolly racism again ends up slap bang in some quite complex territory by the time the book is done. It’s a book that makes you think, whilst also embracing some of the daftest subplots of the era and a very early example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. A classic

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris Fowler

    A wartime whodunnit rescued from obscurity with good reason. No pastiche this, it’s the real thing, written in 1943 by Kathleen Hewitt, and the language is redolent of smoky pubs, dodgy shops and burned out buildings. It’s also a lot more chipper than you’d expect, as the civilians unravel a murder plot, light another gasper and get on with daily life in the midst of the Blitz.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andre Noel

    A fascinating book from a forgotten female author. Well written it provides exquisite details about life during world war II in London. It is a whodunnit murder mystery that takes us through a series of dead-ends, slowly building the plot.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Wyver

    Female author published in 1943. A whodunnit with the hero being a distinguished RAF pilot recovering from being shot down by the Germans. He is about to return to flying but whilst recuperating at his old boarding house, a murder occurs. Having been written in the 1940’s there are obviously nothing like the forensic opportunities that we are all aware of now. Although it is very dated, in language and in attitudes, it is still a good plot and conveys the atmosphere of wartime Britain.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dimmie

    if you like agatha christie you will certainly like this book,, the only reason why i gave it 4 stars is because the ending was slightly anticlimactic and cheesy imo (you might figure out the culprit two thirds into the book and be slightly disappointed by the outcome) but still a nice read will recommend to my friends

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Cullum

    Good story,

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christine Parker

    A timepiece!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    For my full review click on the link below: https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress... For my full review click on the link below: https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress...

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Prestidge

    This 1943 novel by Kathleen Hewitt is the third in the excellent series of Imperial War Museum reprints of wartime classics, but couldn’t be more different from the first two, From The City, From The Plough and Trial By Battle. Whereas they were both literary novels shot through with harrowing accounts of men in battle, Plenty Under The Counter is an almost jolly affair, a conventional murder mystery set against the trials, tribulations and financial opportunities of civilian life in wartime Lon This 1943 novel by Kathleen Hewitt is the third in the excellent series of Imperial War Museum reprints of wartime classics, but couldn’t be more different from the first two, From The City, From The Plough and Trial By Battle. Whereas they were both literary novels shot through with harrowing accounts of men in battle, Plenty Under The Counter is an almost jolly affair, a conventional murder mystery set against the trials, tribulations and financial opportunities of civilian life in wartime London. A jolly murder? Well, of course. Fictional murders can be range from brutal to comic depending on the genre, and although the corpse found in the back garden of Mrs Meake’s lodging house – 15 Terrapin Road – is just as dead as any described by Val McDermid or Michael Connelly, the mood is set by the chief amateur investigator, a breezy and frightfully English RAF pilot called David Heron on recuperation leave from his squadron, and his elegantly witty lady friend Tess. He is from solid county stock: “There was his Aunt Jane, enduring the full horror of only having two servants to wait on her. There was an uncle, retired from the Indian Army, now clinging like a cobweb to the musty armchairs in his club.” Readers will not need a degree in 20th century social history to recognise that the book’s title refers to the methods used by shopkeepers to circumvent the official rationing of food and fancy goods. More sinister is the presence – both in real life and in the book – of criminals who exploit the shortages to make serious money playing the black market and for whom deadly violence is just a way of life. Hewitt gives us plenty of Waugh-ish social satire on the way, partly courtesy of David’s friend Bob Carter, a young man with what they used to call ‘a dodgy ticker’. Turned down from active service he expends his energy on extracting donations from rich people in order to open a bizarre club, where he hopes that people of all nations (barring Jerry, the Eyeties and the Nips, of course) will mingle over a glass or two and thus further the cause of nation speaking unto nation. There is also the grotesque Annie, who serves as Mrs Meake’s maid of all work. Annie is painfully thin, a little short of six feet tall, and the first thing that most people see of her when she enters a room is her teeth. The ingredients simmering away in the pot of this murder mystery are exotic. There is Mrs Meake, matronly now in her middle age, but still dreaming of the days when she was a beauty in the chorus line on the London stage; her daughter Thelma, a thoroughly spoiled brat who has movie aspirations above her ability; also, who was the swarthy seafaring man trying to sell a fancy-handled knife in the local pub? David’s fellow residents at 15 Terrapin Road are a study in themselves – Cumberbatch, the retired rubber planter with a secret in his room; Lipscott, the Merchant Navy man besotted with a waif-like girl, and the misanthropic Smedley, with his limp and a sudden need for £100. The story rattles along in fine style as the hours tick by before David has to return to the war. He has two pressing needs. One is to buy the special licence which will enable him to marry Tess, and the other is to find the Terrapin Road murderer. Hewitt (right) is too good a writer to leave her story lightly bobbing about on the bubbles of wartime champagne (probably a toxic mix of white wine and ginger ale) and she darkens the mood in the last few pages, leaving us to ponder the nature of tragedy and self-sacrifice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    One of the Imperial War Museum's collection of re-issued WWII novels, Plenty Under the Counter is set in 1942. An airman on convalescent leave is dawn into a murder investigation when a body is found in the back garden of the boarding house where he is staying. This leads to a web of black market activity and string of possible suspects. The language feels rather dated in places and the pace borders on the languid, but this is an interesting glimpse into a side of wartime life that you seldom see One of the Imperial War Museum's collection of re-issued WWII novels, Plenty Under the Counter is set in 1942. An airman on convalescent leave is dawn into a murder investigation when a body is found in the back garden of the boarding house where he is staying. This leads to a web of black market activity and string of possible suspects. The language feels rather dated in places and the pace borders on the languid, but this is an interesting glimpse into a side of wartime life that you seldom see portrayed in fiction.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    WW2 Flight-Lieutenant David Heron is recuperating after a war time injury and has chosen to spend his convalescence in his favourite boarding house in London. When he is rudely awakened with the strange news that the body of a man has been found in the garden everyone in Mrs Meake’s boarding house is immediately under suspicion. David, however, is determined to track down the perpetrator of this heinous crime even though it takes him into some very dangerous situations. What then follows is an in WW2 Flight-Lieutenant David Heron is recuperating after a war time injury and has chosen to spend his convalescence in his favourite boarding house in London. When he is rudely awakened with the strange news that the body of a man has been found in the garden everyone in Mrs Meake’s boarding house is immediately under suspicion. David, however, is determined to track down the perpetrator of this heinous crime even though it takes him into some very dangerous situations. What then follows is an interesting whodunit which is very much in the style of the golden age of sleuthing. The characters take charge from the very start and whilst Flight-Lieutenant Heron is a suave and sophisticated sleuth, he is also very much an old fashioned gentleman, and his considered approach to crime investigation is a real breath of fresh air. However, his air of affability and general bonhomie is about to be tested to the limit as he delves further and further into the clandestine world of the black market. Plenty Under the Counter is filled with twists, turns and numerous red herrings and is a fascinating snap shot of what it was like to live in wartime London. Written in 1948, there is a definite air of authenticity about it, particularly as the author is using her own experience of living in London during the war years, bringing a real sense of originality to what is, after all, quite a complex murder/mystery. Plenty Under the Counter is a fascinating addition to the IWM Wartime Classic Collection and will, I’m sure, appeal to those readers who enjoy a good old fashioned crime nove

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne Brooke

    2.5 stars. This is a distinctly average thriller which is very much of its time. It's useful if you would like a feel of wartime London and the black market, but not so good if you're looking for great fiction. I also found the new main characters, David and Tess, very irritating indeed. Such a shame. 2.5 stars. This is a distinctly average thriller which is very much of its time. It's useful if you would like a feel of wartime London and the black market, but not so good if you're looking for great fiction. I also found the new main characters, David and Tess, very irritating indeed. Such a shame.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen Huxtable

    The story begins in my favourite way with a murder and a classic dagger in the back situation. David Heron a pilot in the RAF has only recently arrived at the guest house after an injury. He almost immediately decides that he is going to investigate the murder. The book was easy to read and reminded me in many ways of Agatha Christie with the mismatch of characters in the guest house and their eccentric personalities. I really enjoyed getting to know David and Mrs Meake the landlady who is terrif The story begins in my favourite way with a murder and a classic dagger in the back situation. David Heron a pilot in the RAF has only recently arrived at the guest house after an injury. He almost immediately decides that he is going to investigate the murder. The book was easy to read and reminded me in many ways of Agatha Christie with the mismatch of characters in the guest house and their eccentric personalities. I really enjoyed getting to know David and Mrs Meake the landlady who is terrified that her guest house will be brought into disrepute after a body is found in the garden. A well written and engaging tale with a good twist which was also really interesting from an historic perspective and gave lots of information about London in the blitz that I was not aware of previously. I will be definitely searching for other books by this author and Thank you to Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics for introducing me to this great author and for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review. Also big thanks to Anne Cater for my invitation to the blog tour.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sam Parkin

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tyler McGaughey

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ian Hinchcliffe

  23. 4 out of 5

    Frederik

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Anderson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dot

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bob Richards

  28. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Reid

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tom Templeton

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter

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