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IN PLACE OF FEAR,

US launch, June 2022

In Place of Fear (UK April, US June)

Death stalks the streets, as the NHS is born

The story of the development of a small, well organized, purposeful, predominantly female, profession would be worth telling for its own sake …” Scottish Medical Social Workers and Social Medicine, 1940–1975

Edinburgh, July 1948, and Helen Crowther’s life is just about to change. She would have married her childhood sweetheart at sixteen, settled in a room and kitchen near her parents in Tollcross, and worked in the Fountainbridge brewery till the first baby was on its way. But Sandy signed up early and was taken prisoner. Now released and de-mobbed, he has returned a haunted man, unable to do his skilled job in the slaughterhouse, reduced to street sweeping where his nerves can be held at bay.

Helen was clever at school and spent the war as the protégé and right-hand girl to Mrs Sinclair, who lives immersed in good works as an almoner and champion of the indigent poor. Now, with the birth of the NHS, the city doctors need not a lady almoner to raise funds for the destitute, but a professional go-between to help the hordes of patients whose problems call for more than a cough bottle or a poultice.

With her certificate in the spanking new discipline of  “Social Work”, Helen is ideal. But Dr Deuchar, her friend and ally, is the only one who thinks so. Ungrateful, says Mrs Sinclair, to take her kindness and profit by it.  Scandalous, say Helen’s parents, to dirty her hands with the dregs of humanity. Disloyal, says Sandy, to rub his nose in his struggle to support her. Helen herself is far from sure that she’s got what it takes to defy them.

She’s barely found her feet at work when she stumbles upon a suspicious death and learns that, even in this city of lawyers, no one is willing to fight for justice at the risk of scandal. As she takes on the task of solving what she’s sure is a murder, she’s propelled into a darker world than she knew existed, hardscrabble as her own can be. Disapproval is the least of her worries now.

In Place of Fear skewers a society on the cusp of change, where the old rules no longer hold sway. Set at a tough time in a gritty place, it is nevertheless imbued with all the hope of the new peace.

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