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Published: 26 February 2021 26 February 2021

The Lumbermill by Laya V Smith

The Lumbermill is an excellent debut novel that takes horrific, little-known historical events and embroiders them into a dark and sinister narrative. Unit 731, or the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department, was a part of the Japanese army responsible for atrocities greater than, or on a par with, those of the Nazis, and Augy Small has first-hand experience and the scars to prove it.

Now a private investigator in Los Angeles, the former WW2 fighter pilot and Japanese prisoner of war has lost everything he cares about. One evening Katya runs in front of his car, and he is drawn back into a nightmare world that he thought he had left behind forever. She needs his help but everyone they encounter seems to be part of the conspiracy – who can they trust?

This is a well-written, fast-paced story, reminiscent in style to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The setting of 1950s Los Angeles made it feel like a film noir. Laya V Smith has written some wonderful characters that you really care about, and others that totally deserve everything that’s coming to them. Augy is a deeply flawed individual, still suffering from nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder, but no matter what he encounters he doesn’t give up. Some suspension of disbelief is called for as the severity of his injuries should have incapacitated him, but this is a work of fiction after all.

The Lumbermill is an impressive debut novel that will keep you turning the pages long into the night, and I look forward to reading more from Laya V Smith in the future. Thanks to the author for a copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT