Bibliophile | Former war reporter finds new stories in ‘The Ghosts of Paris’

The Ghosts of Paris
by Tara Moss
Harper Collins Publishing

Billie Walker is the only female inquiry agent (with the word ‘detective’ reserved for those in the police force) in Sydney in 1947. A former war reporter, she retains her feminist feistiness but the “Sydney newsrooms had not been too keen on women reporters once the men returned” from the war.

Taking over her deceased father’s offices, Billie discovers that most of her work is following errant husbands and finding tangible proof of adultery for women needing divorces to be filed. She laments that she has gone from tailing Nazis in France to tailing libidos in The Cross.

When the wealthy Mrs Richard Montgomery hires Billie, she observes that the woman doesn’t have a first name of her own. Mrs Richard Montgomery wants Billie and her assistant Sam to track down her missing husband in Europe and Billie reveals that she was briefly married to a man who was also one of the millions of men who disappeared in Europe during or shortly after the war.

It was difficult for women at that time whose husbands were missing because without a death certificate or a divorce, they couldn’t move on with their lives. Unfortunately the expedition is full of danger and dead ends, and painful memories and it becomes apparent that Billie’s life is in danger.

The Ghosts of Paris is actually a sequel to The War Widow, where the Billie established her agency and hunted down a Nazi war criminal living in Sydney and profiting from his war crimes. With noir echoes of 1940s fiction, the flamboyant heroine and her trusty assistant travel to London and then Paris, with both cities still showing damage caused by years of bombing, to try to locate the men.

Although the war was won, it is far from over and these are men who do not want to be located, especially after discovering that homosexuality is not illegal in France as it is in the antipodes.

Lezly Herbert

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