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Without Conscience: A Johnny Hawke Novel    by David Stuart Davies order for
Without Conscience
by David Stuart Davies
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Prepare yourself to encounter one of the most reprehensible villains in contemporary mystery fiction. He is Harryboy Jenkins, a pivotal character in David Stuart Davies' latest and most highly recommended Johnny Hawke novel, and - to say the least - he is arrogant, sadistic, violent, murderous, and - except for his justifiably though obsessively neurotic recollection of a childhood incident involving himself and his brother - Harryboy simply lives his life without a conscience.

So, as Without Conscience unfolds itself and relentlessly attaches itself to the reader's unflagging attention, Harryboy continues on his despicable life of crime by dispensing with a country vicar and stealing his car, by putting a bullet into the forehead of a London constable, by physically (and sexually) abusing an innocent young woman, and by attacking anyone and everyone who gets in his way, especially when he is intent upon financing his life of sordid leisure in the dark and dangerous streets of London during World War II.

Meanwhile, readers are also introduced to the infinitely likeable and remarkably resourceful Johnny Hawke of Hawke Investigations (a one-man firm established in 1939 after Johnny lost an eye while in the Army). The business of being a one-eyed private investigator shows little promise for improvement when Johnny is hired yet again by another suspicious spouse to dig up evidence of marital infidelity. This routine case, an 'unpleasantly hot potato,' however, soon turns into something quite extraordinary when the murder of a transvestite, secrets and duplicity in the War Office, and a runaway orphan who idolizes the sleuth with a fondness for jazz, booze, and cigarettes combine to turn Johnny's life into a difficult series of harrowing complications. Then, when he accidentally crosses paths with Harryboy, Johnny is about to be swallowed up into a foul 'Stygian void' from which there may be no escape for anyone at or near their intersection.

Simply stated, Without Conscience is ample evidence that author David Stuart Davies is one the best writers of top-notch mystery fiction. Settings, characterizations, plot, and narrative style - all superbly rendered - combine to make Davies' intricate, exciting, and powerful sequel to the highly acclaimed Forests of the Night one of the best historical mysteries of 2008. Don't miss it!

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