Review: Shamus Dust by Janet Roger

The plaudits Janet Roger’s Shamus Dust have received are well-deserved, not the least of which are its world-building of 1947 London, classical noir chops, excellent plotting, sly class observations, and admixture of American and British voices. But unlike some reviewers and readers, this writer loves beautifully deployed language, by which I mean breezy yet eloquent, poetically rhythmic and wielded with strong command. Think Cole Porter.

Shamus Dust is, among many other things, a noir murder mystery with more than a hat-tip to classic Chandler—more a deep curtsy—yet a testimonial to the saw, “all stories have been told, different only in the manner by which they are told.”

“The silhouette of a single-engine Lysander skimmed a fret of trees, silent as a gull clipping wavetops, crossed the Oxford road close to stalling and floated weightless out of a sky dripping starlight. It yawed and dipped over a frozen swell of Quonset huts at the airfield perimeter, adjusted its trim and for a long moment let you hear the whisper of its motor, then glided in over a curling ground mist. It kissed the strip twice lightly…”

As we might say in the States, does that put you in the scene or what? It’s an example of writerliness that for me, renders story telling in a strong voice and with deftness. Some readers may prefer crime writing in thriller style—spare, a lot of white space to the page and the forward motion of a dragster, a la Elmore Leonard. Some say of literary writing that not much happens but there’s a lot going on. Shamus Dust gives you both the beauty of language as well as forward motion, maybe not a Ferarri that gets you there fast, but sure-footed and elegant, a well-crafted vehicle beautiful to be in and gets you there just the same.