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Authors: John Lawton

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Second Violin

BOOK: Second Violin
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Second Violin
Frederick Troy [6]
John Lawton
UK (2006)

The sixth installment in the series, Lawton's novel opens in 1938 with Europe on the brink of war. In London, Frederick Troy, newly promoted to the prestigious Murder Squad at Scotland Yard, is put in charge of rounding up a list of German and Italian "enemy aliens" that also includes Frederick's brother, Rod, who learns upon receiving an internment letter that despite having grown up in England he is actually Austrian. Hundreds of men are herded by train to a neglected camp on the Isle of Man. And, as the bombs start falling on London, a murdered rabbi is found, then another, and another. Amidst great war, murder is what matters. Moving from the Nazi-infested alleys of prewar Vienna to the bombed-out streets of 1940 London, and featuring an...




John Lawton
is the director of over forty television programmes, author of a dozen screenplays, several children’s books and seven
Inspector Troy novels. Lawton’s work has earned him comparisons to John le Carré and Alan Furst. Lawton lives in a remote hilltop village in Derbyshire.


Black Out

Old Flames

A Little White Death


Blue Rondo

Second Violin

A Lily of the Field


First published in 2007 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, England

This ebook edition published in 2012 by Grove Press UK, an imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc.

Copyright ©John Lawton, 2007

The moral right of John Lawton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of the book.

Every effort has been made to trace or contact all copyright-holders. The publishers will be pleased to make good any omissions or rectify any mistakes brought to their
attention at the earliest opportunity.

1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978 1 61185 987 4

Printed in Great Britain

Grove Press, UK
Ormond House
26–27 Boswell Street


For Ion Trewin


Britain became bomb-conscious: trenches were dug; many Londoners went to earth in the country; hardly had the trenches become water-logged and the
earths abandoned than it was all to do again. After that many new fashions came in; windows were crisscrossed with tape; gas masks were carried about and left in cinemas and on blackberry bushes,
bags of sand lay on pavements, rotted, sprouted, and burst asunder; through Cimmerian blackness torches were flashed, annoying drivers; women went into trousers, civilians into fire, ambulance and
wardens’ stations, older men into the Home Guard; young men and women were put into the forces and factories, enemy aliens (hostile and friendly) into camps, British Fascists and others into
gaol, policemen into tin hats. Cars crashed all night into street refuges, pedestrians, and each other; the warning banshee wailed by night and day; people left their beds and sat in shelters . . .
where a cheerful, if at times malicious, envious and quarrelsome social life throve . . . Conversation was for some months on catastrophic lines; key-words were
(by the less well
instructed pronounced
all clear, bomb, under the table, a fine mess in blank street, a nice shelter in dash street,
. . . [later] conversation tended to turn
on . . . food: what was permitted, what was to be had, what was not permitted and where this was to be had and at what cost, what was not to be had at all and how so-and-so had had it . . . food
talk often beat bomb talk. So, later, did clothes coupons talk (those who said
). Standards of smartness depreciated, to the relief of those who found them tedious
or inaccessible. Bare legs became a feminine summer fashion; men, more sartorially conservative, clung to such socks as they had. Evening dress was seldom seen. Life was less decorative and less
social; but human gregariousness found, as always, its outlets. For many, indeed, it became more communal than before; uniformed men and women were assembled for military or civil defence, and, in
the intervals of their duties, played, ate and drank together; it was a life which tended to resolve class distinctions; taxi-drivers, dustmen, window-cleaners . . . shop assistants, hairdressers,
and young ladies and gentlemen from expensive schools and universities, met and played and worked on level terms, addressing each other by nicknames. English social life is . . . moving a few steps
nearer that democracy for which we say we are fighting and have never yet had . . . and whether these will be retraced or continued when the solvent furnace of war dies down . . . we cannot yet know.

Rose Macaulay,
Life Among the English,


Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;

It was Hitler over Europe, saying: ‘They must die’;

We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,

Saw a door opened and a cat let in:

But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.


‘Do you think this war will rid us of cellophane?

I speak feelingly, having just tried to get at

the interior of a box of cigars.

A world without cellophane or petrol – as in my youth!

What a dream of bliss’

from a letter to


‘If ever there was a time when one should wear life like a loose garment, this is it’


The London Observer Diaries















































































An Interlude

























































































































Red Vienna


At 451 °F paper burns.

At 900 °F glass melts.

At 536 °F flesh will burst into flames.

At –40 °F Fahrenheit and Centigrade meet.


Under moonlight
a madman dances.

§ 1

12 March 1938
Hampstead, London


It was going to be a yellow day.

The nameless bird trilling in the tree outside his window told him that. He had learnt too little of the taxonomy of English flora and fauna to be at all certain what the bird was. A Golden
Grebe? A Mustard Bustard? He took its song as both criticism and compliment – ‘cheek, cheek, cheek’.

Fine, he thought, if there’s one thing I have in spades it’s cheek. Do I need a bird to tell me that?

He watched its head bobbing, heard again the rapid chirp – now more ‘tseek’ than ‘cheek’, and was wondering if he had a yellow tie somewhere for this yellow day and
whether it might sit remotely well with his suit, when Polly the housemaid came in.

‘My dear, tell me . . . what is this bird in the tree here?’

‘Boss . . . there’s bigger fish to fry than some tom tit–’

He cut her short.

‘There, do you see? In the cherry tree. The one with the yellow breast.’

‘Boss . . . I’m a Londoner. Born, bred and never been further than Southend. Sparrers is me limit. Just call it a yeller wotsit and listen to me.’

BOOK: Second Violin
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