Needless Alley by Natalie Marlow

Birmingham, 1933. 

Private enquiry agent William Garrett, a man damaged by a dark childhood spent on Birmingham’s canals, specialises in facilitating divorces for the city’s male elite. With the help of his best friend -charming, out-of-work actor Ronnie Edgerton – William sets up honey traps. But photographing unsuspecting women in flagrante plagues his conscience and William heaves up his guts with remorse after every job. 

However, William’s life changes when he accidentally meets the beautiful Clara Morton and falls in love. Little does he know she is the wife of a client – a leading fascist with a dangerous obsession. And what should have been another straightforward job turns into something far more deadly. 

Set in 1930s Birmingham, and dripping with period atmosphere, Needless Alley is fabulous. William ‘Billy’ Garrett is a private enquiry agent, who specialises in helping men with divorces. For a suitable fee he’ll arrange a honey trap (ably assisted by his best friend Ronnie, an out of work actor) to get some incriminating photos and help the husbands get out of their marriages. But it all goes awry when he meets the beautiful Clara, the wife of one of his clients.

Gloriously gritty Brummie Noir with a real sense of place, the book takes in the highs and lows of Birmingham from the canals to the country houses, the tenements to the factories, and featuring a glorious cast of memorable characters, it’s a hugely impressive debut, and one which I highly recommend.

Needless Alley by Natalie Marlow is published by Baskerville and is out now. Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book to review

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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