“Henry Kenneth Morton – know as Hooky to his associates – sat at his private table in the saloon bar of his pub, the Dark Horse, in King’s Cross, perusing the heavy ledger open in front of him and comparing some of the figures with a pile of tickets from his tankers.“
Detective Chief Inspector Edgar Saxe-Coburg is once again called in to investigate a murder in one of London’s top hotels. The hope is that his regal name and connection to the gentry will smooth the investigation with any of Europe’s exiled royals, many of whom stay at the hotel while war rages in their homelands.
There’s nothing cosy about this mystery series, indeed the depictions of the lives of real people trying to live through the Blitz can get quite dark, and yet it’s a relatively ‘light’ read in other respects. Perhaps because there is a very familiar pattern now to the series, and not so dissimilar from the author’s Museum mysteries either. Or probably because the story clips along at a pace, touching on dark topics but never lingering.
In this instalment we have mysterious murders of various immigrants, which feels a little too on the nose right now, to be honest. Then we have another plot strand dealing with London’s gangsters jostling for respect and territory both.
The main cast are all here, but there’s not a great deal of character development in either the book or the series in general. I don’t particularly like the way Rosa is written, she’s just a bit earnest somehow, and maybe even a little too ‘modern’. And I have to admit, I was rolling my eyes at DI Lomax having yet another appearance as the jealous, back-stabbing colleague convinced he’s hard-done by. Side-kick Sgt Lampson gets a nice little subplot, though, which I did think added to the period setting of the book.
I’m also not sure having Ian Fleming and brother as (minor) characters adds anything – it’s not unrealistic, per se, but it feels odd nonetheless. Similarly, I did also slightly wonder at some of the scenes given more emphasis than it felt they needed, such as the Princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) giving a radio address, to add that ‘historical flavour’. Sometimes it just felt a bit like trying too hard, and definitely a little too much crammed in without any depth to it.
However, as I say, most of that can be allowed to sail over your head as the pace hurries along. I cannot, alas, feel anything other than jolted by the way DCI Coburg’s otherwise perfect policing is very unrealistically cast aside for one specific moment. I rolled my eyes yet more, thinking “Oh yeah – as soon as the plot needs it”, but it didn’t even seem that important. Certainly, the same result could have been handled with a little more thought and care, but it’s hard not to feel that these books are churned out a little too quickly for that.
Still, a diverting little read, and it does manage to capture the Blitz period mood well enough, with sufficient mystery to keep you guessing just enough. Not a must-read for me, but then I do keep coming back to the series for a less demanding kind of a read!
NetGalley eARC: 320 pages / 46 chapters
First published: 21st April 2022
Series: Hotel Mysteries book 3
Read from 22nd-27th March 2022
My rating: 6/10