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Inspector Ryga's world in these atmospheric 1950s set mysteries

The gripping Inspector Ryga Mysteries by Pauline Rowson

England 1950s struggling to come to terms with peace in the grip of austerity and rationing.

Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Alun Ryga, a former German prisoner-of-war, is sent out to solve baffling coastal crimes around the coast of England.

Here's a taste of what life was like in Inspector Ryga's day.

  • Housing in short supply, people living in Nissan huts on disused airfields, abandoned army camps, in converted torpedo boats, old houseboats, railway carriages and shacks.
  • Children playing on bombed out buildings and on the streets.
  • Open fires, coal dust and soot. Paraffin heaters, and ice on the inside of bedroom windows. A tin bath in front of the fire on a Friday or Saturday night. Toilets in the back yard.
  • Fog and smog. Trams, trolley buses and steam trains.
  • Illegal abortions, back street practitioners. A social stigma attached to illegitimacy, divorce unacceptable in many circles, homosexuality illegal and capital punishment in operation.

Scotland Yard and the Murder Squad

It was common practice for Scotland Yard detectives to be called in to help investigate and indeed take charge of crimes around the country. At a moment’s notice detectives could be on a train heading towards a town, city or village where a crime had been committed that the local forces needed assistance with. This elite unit from Scotland Yard was created in 1907 by Home Secretary, Herbert Gladstone, and became known as The Murder Squad.

Inspector Ryga is part of The Murder Squad, a specialist in solving baffling coastal crimes. His background as an ex Merchant Navy seaman means he understands the sea, and those who work, live and play around and on it. His sidekick, Sergeant Jacobs of the Yard, stays in London while Ryga teams up with, and works with other police officers in the towns, ports and bays where his investigations take him.

Crime Scenes, photographers, analysts and laboratories

In 1950 often the police themselves took photographs at the crime scene. Civilian photographers weren’t introduced until 1955 and then not in all places. So Ryga bucks the trend and teams up with war photographer and photojournalist, Eva Paisley, in 1950, who he meets on his first investigation outside of London, using her expertise as a photographer and her ‘third eye’ to help solve the crime of who killed the man in the pin striped suit whose body is found in the isolated Church Ope Cove on the Royal Island of Portland, Dorset in DEATH IN THE COVE.

In the 1950s there were no specialist crime scene officers, so this is vastly different to today’s crime dramas. CSI Specialists were introduced in 1968, although some forces had them before that time but not in the fifties.

The Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory was set up in 1934 and there were small police laboratories in Cardiff, Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham. Scientific support for police prosecutions was little used and consultants, called public analysts, were called in on an ad hoc basis. In 1950 Home Office Analysts were being used until their role died out in 1954 when their work was taken over by the laboratories.

The Murder Bag

In 1950, Inspector Ryga would take with him his Murder Bag. This was developed by Pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury (later Sir Bernard Spilsbury), who, after the 1924 high profile Mahon/Kaye case when he found detectives handling the dismembered remains of Emily Kaye (murdered by Mahon), with their bare hands, expressed the view that police officers should wear gloves to save them being exposed to infection. His concern inspired the introduction of the Murder Bag/Case.

In Ryga’s Murder Case, Ryga has rubber gloves, a magnifying glass, a tape measure, a ruler, swabs, sample bags, forceps, scissors, a scalpel, and other instruments. The Murder Bag remained in use until Crime Scene Investigators were introduced in 1968.

Communicating with the Police

Mackenzie Trench Police Boxes appeared in London in 1929 and could also be used by the general public, few households had telephones. The police boxes were a vital communications link. The boxes could be used to report fire, or to summon an ambulance and report crime.

The light on top of a police box illuminated red and could be activated by the station, or by a member of the public to attract a police officer. Officers therefore were encouraged to stay within line-of-sight of their Police Box for as much time as possible, although the top of the Police Box lamp contained a gong mechanism which also provided an audible means of attracting attention.

Women in the police force

Between 1939 and 1949 the number of police women rose from 246 to 1148. In 1932 Lilian Wyles was appointed the first woman Chief Inspector in the police force. She joined London's Metropolitan Police in 1919 and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in 1933.

In 1950 women police officers were fairly rare but a growing number. It wasn't until 1948 that the first two policewomen were appointed in the Glamorgan Constabulary and in the Liverpool City Police.

On 1 January 1949 the British Transport Commission Police (BTP) was created, formed from the four old railway police forces, canal police and several minor dock forces. In 1950 the first female BTP sergeants were appointed when WPC's Snell (Paddington) and Barrett (Liverpool Street) were promoted.

Police vehicles and Bobby’s on bicycles

In rural areas the police presence often only consisted of a ‘Bobby on a bicycle’ but in towns where there was a sergeant or inspector they often used their own cars for which they received an allowance.

In the 1930s the Met was using Area Wireless Cars’ crewed by CID officers and trained drivers and operators (you can see these in operation in some British films of the period).

In more rural areas motor patrols would arrive at a phone box at a fixed time and check in. By the end of the 1940s car fleets began to expand equipped with VHF wireless but not all had them, not in fact until the mid-1960s

A very different world to today!

I hope you enjoy reading the Inspector Ryga mysteries and immersing yourself in his world and investigations.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐" Inspector Ryga is an engaging lead character, shaped by his war-time experiences to be a sensitive, astute detective. The interesting setting of post-war Britain is soaked in atmosphere and I loved the complex, twisting plot. Historical crime-writing at its very best." Amazon

DEATH IN THE COVE (1) set on the Island of Portland, Dorset
DEATH IN THE HARBOUR (2) set in Newhaven Port, East Sussex
DEATH IN THE NETS (3) set in the fishing port of Brixham, Devon.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐"Pure detection mixed with a bit of history. Love these characters and the setting is great.” Goodreads

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐"Brings the atmosphere and era alive.” Amazon

Start reading today and escape into a gripping 1950s mystery.

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JUNE 19TH, 2022 @ 6:28:49 BST

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