Author: Joanne Dobson & Beverle Graves Myers
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN: 9781464200311 (hback)
ISBN: 9781464200328 (pback)

Right is the way I would describe Joanne Dobson & Beverle Grave Myers’ new book, Face Of The Enemy, A New York In Wartime Mystery. Everything is so right – the setting of New York City in late 1941 after war is announced with Japan is finely detailed, the reaction of residents (gals running around stocking up on nylons), the vilification and internment of enemy aliens (most of longstanding U.S. residency) and the rapid rise of public hysteria against anything and anyone not American.

Dobson and Grave Myers, both writers with individual publishing credits, have combined to write an exciting, intriguing story that twists around New York streets and avenues. Maybe the authors know who wrote what, but I didn’t; their joint venture has been seamlessly constructed with nostalgic descriptive passages and dialogue that seems (here’s that word again) so right for the period.

What’s it all about? Masako Fumi, the Japanese born wife of Professor Robert Oakley, holds an exhibition of her avant-garde paintings in the Sherman Gallery in New York. Hugely talented, Masako looks set for a sellout until the attack on Pearl Harbour and anti-Japanese sentiment cause her show to be cancelled. Professor Oakley, ill with pneumonia, can do nothing to stop the FBI’s internment of Masako on Ellis Island – her crime; Japanese citizenship and a father who is a prominent member of Tojo’s cabinet. Masako isn’t a lonely only; all prominent New York Japanese (Italians and Germans also) residents have been literally ripped from their homes and locked up in Ellis Island dormitories with little or no recourse to legal representation.

Louise Hunter, Professor Oakley’s nurse, outraged by Masako’s arrest decides to do whatever it takes to set her free. Louise lives with other young women in a boardinghouse run by Helda, a German expat. The portraits of Louise and her housemates have been written with humour and understanding of the problems faced by young women in the nineteen forties; dead-end, lowly paid jobs and all pervasive male harassment if they try to step outside accepted female roles; shop assistant, nurse, wife, mother etc .

Masako’s art dealer is murdered and things look grim – the FBI are determined to pin the murder on Masako. Louise, sure Masako is innocent, hires Abe, a gutsy lawyer experienced in fighting human rights violations, and with the help of her room-mate, a reporter with her toe in the door of The New York Times office, the investigation to find the real murderer starts percolating. Homicide Lieutenant Michael Mc Kenna, initially reluctant to help, joins the team. Convinced the FBI have  made a scapegoat of Masako and against the orders of his boss, he takes up the case and despite some cleverly plotted red herrings by the authors, Louise and Mc Kenna save the day and Masako. And, oh yeah, forgot to say: there’s a nicely handled dash of romance between Louise and Abe (cute guy).

Mentally smiling all the while I was reading Face Of The Enemy, I loved the time-frame, characters and story - really sorry to part from Louise and Mc Kenna when the end credits rolled. Hope the writers have another New York In Wartime Mystery in the pipeline.

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