“The wail of air raid sirens filled the air.“
Following straight on from the first book in the series, Murder at the Ritz, it was easy to just keep reading on with the second, even though I hadn’t been that impressed with the first volume. It wasn’t bad at all, just not quite enough to garner huge praise. And yet, yes, it was indeed very easy to keep reading.
The second instalment rejoins DCI Coburn and the lovely Rosa in 1940s London. World War II rages across Europe, and England is bombed daily in air raids. We aren’t shielded from the horrors of living through the Blitz, and its use as the book’s backdrop is a definite hook.
Once again, we’re thrust straight into the class wars, this time with a group of working class families attempting to force entry into the very posh Savoy hotel and its luxury air raid shelter. It’s not difficult to agree with their point that safety from the bombs should not be reserved for the rich, although the narrative tries to play a more impartial viewpoint – deliberately, I’ll say, even as it feels a little grating. And of course a lot of that is driven by the too-perfect Coburg, born into a titled family, but now a ‘man of the people’, and with opinions so overly ‘decent’ that they are nearly irritating.
The case kicks off the morning after this storming of the Savoy, when one of the more aristocratic guests is found dead in his bed. Suspicion of course immediately falls on the ‘ne’er do wells’ that shouldn’t have been there, and indeed the first police inspector on the case is more than happy to pursue obvious targets. However, as in the previous book, the hotel has called in Coburg as ‘one of their own’ – setting up a clash in a long-standing rivalry between Coburg and the completely awful Inspector Lomax. It all felt a bit forced, if I’m honest, but does provide a meaty subplot through the whole book, and it’s actually a nice balance between Coburg’s (lack of) character flaws and the set up he finds himself in.
I will say that I liked this a little better than the first book, and once again it was an easy, pleasant enough read. The plot hung together a little better for me this time, too. I still wasn’t entirely enamoured of the WWII setting, or rather the way the tragedies of war were left to do some of the emotional heavy lifting. The overall writing, however, isn’t quite strong enough to not make that come through as melodrama.
Would I read book 3? I’m totally on the fence. I might, in ARC form, but I’m entirely not bothered if I put the series down here and, sadly, won’t be looking to buy future instalments. Ymmv, as they say.
Kindle: 256 pages / 43 chapters
First published: 2021
Series: Hotel Mysteries book 2
Read from 25th-28th September 2021
My rating: 6/10