Friday, January 29th, 2010
The Short Take:
One mystery isn’t enough for Andrew Taylor. This book easily contains a half dozen mysteries, not to mention a fair share of red herrings and a bounty of family secrets. Plus there’s Taylor’s rather shocking (for me) portrait of English politics between the two World Wars. All in all, and in all the details, it’s one great read.
Taylor is an established, award winning mystery writer but he was new to me. Was I ever missing out! While this might not be a book for the ages (though, who am I to say?) it’s certainly one densely plotted, well populated, intriguing, and even educational mystery.
I say educational due to the window it opens on the political climate in England between the wars. Fascists were surprisingly popular with elements in the upper class while Communism had a strong appeal to the masses. And, of course, the two clash. While these clashes do not form the center of the novel, they do make part of an interesting backdrop.
It’s also somewhat jarring to realize that the cigarette smoking, modern dressed women of that era were still shackled by the social expectations and limitations of the previous century.
But it’s the smart and multi-faceted mystery itself that absorbs you. And, good luck trying to outguess this writer! Even with the hundreds of mysteries I’ve read, I was still surprised at the end — and Taylor did not play any tricks to make that happen.
A Little Plot:
New bride Lydia Langstone, abused by her ambitious husband, seeks shelter at the seedy Bleeding Heart Square with a father she has never before met. A mature woman of means, Philippa Penhow, disappears (or worse) after taking up with a charming rogue. A young man hopes if he solves this mysterious disappearance, his sweetheart may obtain the money they need to wed.
The two stories become enmeshed when that charming rogue turns out to now be landlord of the building Philippa once owned and where Lydia now resides. Secrets from the past, coincidences that cannot possibly be accidental, and dangers real and imagined abound. It’s a great mystery to become immersed in: Because you not only want to figure out who did it, but also just what exactly was done.
For more about this book and Andrew Taylor, click here.