Thursday, March 01, 2018
Murder in Belgravia
Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney is set in London during WWI, a time period of great interest for many reasons.
The Great War was in progress and the social landscape was changing: drugs like cocaine and heroin were available at the local pharmacy; the male population was depleted as men enlisted or were conscripted; the zeppelin raids in 1915; women were needed in areas other than domestic service and were working in factories, wearing trousers, cutting their hair, and learning to drive; suffragettes were still hoping for the vote, but suspended many of their political activities and offered their services to the government; only a small number of women were able to receive higher education, but the war increased the need for more women in fields that required more disciplined learning.
The book is a murder mystery that touches on all of the above, as well as examining the difficulty for many in accepting these rapid changes. Today, approximately 100 years later, traditional society struggles to accept the many changes that result from technology.
Briefly, Chief Inspector Peter Beech finds himself investigating the murder of Lord Murcheson. Murcheson's grievously injured wife has confessed to killing her husband, but questions arise as to whether or not her life-threatening injuries would have made it possible.
Beech is given permission to assemble an unusual and off-the-record team that includes two women to pursue the Murcheson case.
In spite of the tawdry elements of the case, the novel has an almost Pollyana-ish group of characters who are more open-minded than would have been typical of the time. Beech's assembled team includes a retired policeman summoned back because of the loss of man power during the war, a young policeman who was wounded during the war, a female doctor, and a woman who studied law. All of the characters are dedicated to solving the murder and are interested in making positive changes.
In the midst of a sordid case that includes murder, prostitution (both male and female), and drugs, the assembled team represent the best of humanity. So...the novel deals with some of the most degraded offenses, but lightens up because of the respectable and decent members of the team. It is a contrast between the terrible reality of the social ills faced and the virtual goodness of the team. This contrast between reality and wishful thinking keeps the novel a step below what it could have been.
The plot is intriguing and held my interest, and the characters are likable, if a bit perfect.
Although the research is obvious, there is no bibliography or list of sources. This may simply be that my copy is an ARC. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Murder in Belgravia and look forward to the next in the series.
Cocaine and heroin were available in pharmacies for almost every possible problem from helping babies to sleep, hay fever treatments, pain relief, etc.
drug use during WWI
some of the drugs advertised during the period
Read in December; review scheduled for March 2018.
Historical Mystery/WWI. March 15, 2018. Print length: 211 pages.