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A Commonplace Killing

A Novel

Set in the bleakness and confusion of post-WWII London, this gripping psychological thriller unravels the double life of a seemingly proper middle-class woman found strangled to death.

On a damp July morning in 1946, two schoolboys find a woman’s body in a bomb site in north London. The woman is identified as Lillian Frobisher, a wife and mother who lived in a war-damaged terrace a few streets away.

The police assume that Lil must have been the victim of a vicious sexual assault; but the autopsy finds no evidence of rape, and Divisional Detective Inspector Jim Cooper turns his attention to her private life.

How did Lil come to be in the bomb site – a well-known lovers’ haunt? If she had consensual sex, why was she strangled? Why was her husband seemingly unaware that she had failed to come home on the night she was killed?

In this gripping murder story, Siân Busby gradually peels away the veneer of stoicism and respectability to reveal the dark truths at the heart of postwar austerity Britain.


Siân Busby, an award-winning writer, broadcaster, and filmmaker, was married to the BBC Business Editor Robert Peston and the mother of two sons. Author of the highly acclaimed historical novel McNaughten, she died in 2012.

"Captures the hopelessness and desperation of the times [post-war London]... A moody gem of a novel that gives moving testament to the exemplary talent that is Busby's lasting legacy."

– Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“A gripping police procedural… Shocking and disturbing, it’s an eloquent example of the historical crime novel, with the emphasis as much on history as on crime.”

– Richmond Times-Dispatch

“[A] superb psychological thriller… brilliant.”

– Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“In fiction based on fact, Busby not only captures time and place but makes them key players in this fast-moving crime novel with its characters indelibly marked by war. Busby died in September 2012 at 51, just after finishing this novel. Her death is a loss to the world of writing,”

– Booklist

“A superbly accomplished and gripping piece of post war noir…Busby's re-creation of a forgotten London--devastated and almost lawless--is extraordinarily atmospheric.”

– The Times (London)

“Brilliantly evoked... A distinctive and engaging novel.”

– The Sunday Times

“Siân Busby’s final novel is a classic whodunit at its very best.”

– The Express

“A fitting monument to a writer of rare subtlety.”

– Mail on Sunday

"This is a novel to make you count your blessings, but it will also make readers rue the misfortune of losing such a talented novelist so early in her career."

– The Daily Telegraph

“Elegant, spell-binding and unbearably sad... This deeply heartfelt crime novel brings a tear to the eye."

– The Daily Mail

"Busby knows how to convey disillusion like no other writer I’ve recently read… a brave and fascinating story."

– Historical Novel Society