So this week’s BotW is the latest in my quest to find more historical crime series. As regular readers are well aware by now, if there are two things that I love, in book terms, it’s murder mysteries and the inter-war period. Witness my previous ravings about my beloved Lord Peter (sidenote, I’ve just treated myself to the Radio play collections from Audible and it is glorious), Daisy Dalrymple, Phryne Fisher et al. So during my Kindle store virtual rummagings I often pick up books that I think might scratch that itch. This was one such purchase.
A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia deals with the murder of one Ticky Maltravers. And never was someone more aptly named. Ticky is a tick of the highest order. For although it appears that he’s really popular, underneath the surface something rather unpleasant is going on. When Ticky drops dead after a meal to celebrate his birthday, newspaper man Freddie Pilkington-Soames finds himself involved – on two fronts. Firstly his mother was in the taxi with Ticky when he died, and secondly Freddie is chasing the story to try and hold on to his job.
Freddie is Bertie Wooster on the outside, but much, much cleverer on the inside – a bit like Albert Campion in some ways, who is described on occasion as having a foolish face which leads people to underestimate him. And that makes for an engaging read. Freddie is straddling the two worlds in the book – the high society trying to hold on to their secretes and the forces of justice and the press. And because of his job, Freddie has a legitimate reason to be involved in the case which, as I’ve mentioned before, is often a stumbling block for the crime solver in series like this.
I believe Freddie was a side character – a comic one – in Benson’s other series, but although I’ve read one book of hers, it was a while ago and the details have faded. But based on how much I enjoyed this, I’ve clearly been missing out. I’ve added the rest of the Freddie books to my Kindle watchlist, and the other series – the Angela Marchmont mysteries – too. I was really impressed with how good this was – and for a while I thought it might be one of the forgotten Golden Age books that I’ve picked up on offer. I put that down to the fact that it comes across as a mix of PG Wodehouse and one of the Queens of Crime – witty but with a solid, slightly grubby murder.
My copy was on Kindle (I even paid for it) – and it’s still only 99p at time of writing this – but it’s also available on Kobo or as a paperback, although I suspect that will be a special order job rather than one you can pick up in the bookshop.