Eric Brown has been writing science fiction successfully for donkey’s years but Murder By The Book is his first foray into crime fiction and going by this one I certainly hope it won’t be his last. It’s published by Creme de la Crime, an imprint of Severn House Publishing.
I read far more vintage crime than contemporary crime books, mainly because I don’t go in for ultra gory descriptions, so the 1950s London setting fitted the bill for me, Brown managed to evoke the atmosphere well, not that I was there at the time mind you, but I have soaked up a fair amount of the ambience in my years of reading vintage crime. It’s also nice and bookish, involving crime writers, agents and publishers.
Charles Elder is a literary agent who confesses to Donald Langham, one of the writers that he represents, that he’s being blackmailed over compromising photos. Charles is actually a likeable character, bon viveur, gourmand and generous gent, something quite rare in literary circles. Unfortunately his Achilles’ heel is that he’s a bit of an old queen at a time when it was still illegal in the UK. Donald has had some experience of working in a detective agency in the past so he offers to try to track down the blackmailer for Charles.
Donald isn’t exactly successful and more crimes follow thick and fast when crime writers are found dead in bizarre circumstances. When Charles ends up in hospital it gives Donald the chance to get closer to Maria Dupre, Charles’s French assistant, he has fancied her from afar for years. They bond over their mutual angst over Charles. Donald is a bit slow when it comes to women it would seem.
As ever, I don’t want to say too much about the storyline, I did have an inkling as to the culprit at around the half-way or two thirds mark but it certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment and there were plenty of twists and turns along the way which had me doubting my guess. An awful lot of tea drinking goes on in Murder By The Book, with Earl Grey being Donald’s tea of choice. So if you’re a bit of a tea Jenny too you might want to make sure that you’re well supplied with your own favourite blend of tea to accompany the book.
I found Eric Brown’s writing to be smooth and pacey, I read this one in three chunks but I would have read it all in one sitting if life hadn’t got in the way of my reading time. Although I’ve not read an awful lot of science fiction I think I might just have a go at some of his SF too.
The front cover says: A Langham and Dupre Mystery. I’m looking forward to reading the next one and the development of Donald and Maria’s relationship.