I was looking for a good quality historical murder mystery and spotted this one on Netgalley. I thought the author’s name rang a bell, and was heartened to hear that in addition to having a sizeable backlist of other murder mysteries, many set in the past, he was also responsible for the lovely series King Street Junior that I enjoyed listening to on BBC Radio 4.
BLURB: August 1940. On the streets of London, locals watch with growing concern as German fighter planes plague the city’s skyline. But inside the famous Ritz Hotel, the cream of society continues to enjoy all the glamour and comfort that money can buy during wartime – until an anonymous man is discovered with his throat slashed open.
Detective Chief Inspector Coburg is called in to investigate, no stranger himself to the haunts of the upper echelons of society, ably assisted by his trusty colleague, Sergeant Lampson. Yet they soon face a number of obstacles. With the crime committed in rooms in use by an exiled king and his retinue, there are those who fear diplomatic repercussions and would rather the case be forgotten. With mounting pressure from various Intelligence agencies, rival political factions and gang warfare brewing either side of the Thames, Coburg and Lampson must untangle a web of deception if they are to solve the case – and survive.
REVIEW: This was a thoroughly engrossing read, which ticked all the boxes. DCI Coburg, who is distantly related to the royal family, is clearly a very capable chap. He’s been particularly wheeled in on this murder, as the murder victim is discovered in the suite of an exiled king at the Ritz, and is regarded as a safe pair of hands to deal with the shocked exile and members of his court. However, this case soon spirals off into involving the murkier world of criminal gangs and I really enjoyed the twisting plot that provided plenty of surprises along the way. Some I thought I saw coming – until they turned into something else more interesting. I always enjoy it when that happens.
The characterisation works well, and Eldridge has given a convincing portrayal of life in London at a time just before rationing and the blitz really got going. There is a particular scene where one of the first bombings occur, where the horror and shock at the devastation caused is very well captured. Eldridge could have turned this into a much darker read by focusing on the fear engendered by the war and making the murders much grittier – but he chooses not to. While the deaths of the victims are not played down in any way, the overall tone of the book is generally upbeat. Eldridge achieves this by introducing a romantic thread and also giving us a shaft of glamour through DCI Coburg’s regular visits to lounge at the Ritz.
The balance between light and shade, the plot progression, the deft characterisation and the successful evocation of the period makes this a thoroughly satisfying read. Highly recommended for fans of well-written historical murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of Murder at the Ritz from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.