Saturday, March 9, 2019

ARC Review: Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney

Murder in Belgravia
Author: Lynn Brittney
Series: Mayfair 100 Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (March 13, 2019)

Description: A high-profile murder propels a unique crime-fighting team into the dark environs of London’s underworld―and on a terrifying quest to track a ruthless killer.

London, 1915. As World War I engulfs Europe, a special task force is formed in the affluent Mayfair district to tackle the city’s thorniest crimes against women. When the bobbies and Scotland Yard come up short, there’s only one telephone number to dial: Mayfair 100.

An aristocrat has been murdered, and his wife, a witness and possible suspect, will only talk to a woman. With the blessing of London’s Chief Commissioner, Chief Inspector Beech, a young man invalided out of the war, assembles a crew of sharp, intrepid, and well-educated women to investigate. But to get at the truth, Beech, Victoria, Caroline, Rigsby, and Tollman will venture into the the city’s seedy underbelly, a world where murder is only the first in a litany of evils.

Lynn Brittney’s Mayfair 100 series debut, Murder in Belgravia, is the darkly compelling story of a movement far ahead of its time, in an attempt to combat the prejudices against women then and now.

My Thoughts: This mystery takes place in London in 1915. It is a time of great change for London and Britain. World War I is raging and social divisions are crumbling. When Chief Inspector Beech is called to a crime scene in Belgravia, he encounters Lady Harriet who is only willing to speak to a married woman of her social class regarding the death of her husband. Luckily, Beech knows a woman doctor who meets Lady Harriet's qualifications since Lady Harriet is definitely in need of a doctor.

When Doctor Caroline Allardyce who has been an acquaintance arrives, she quickly notes that Lady Harriet is in grave distress. She is hemorrhaging and in need of emergency surgery. But Lady Harriet is also quick to confess to killing her husband. Only neither Beech nor Caroline believe her.

It is just at this time that Beech is being directed to form a secret police organization to solve some of the many crimes in which women are involved. He has been authorized to include women in his group though they won't be paid or have their work acknowledged. While there are a couple of amateur groups of women policing London since the war has started and so many young men are away serving, but the official London police are a boys only network.

Luckily, Beech knows two women who would be perfect for his new group. Besides Caroline, Beech also recruits a woman he once proposed to but who chose another man. She is now a widow after a bad marriage. Her mother encourages her to join with Beech and use the law degree that she hasn't previously been able to use since women aren't hired as lawyers either.

Beech also adds Billy Rigsby who has been invalided out of the Army and who has now joined the police. He was a boxer who won awards for his unit but a shattered left hand and a head injury made him find another career. He is now fit and strong and rather handsome too with an ability to charm women of all social classes. To round out his team Beech also adds Arthur Tollman who used to work for Special Branch but who had retired until being called back to fill in the ranks of the police.

They quickly learn that their investigation is not at all simple. Lord Murcheson was greatly changed by his war service. He's come home with war wounds that are so painful that his doctor has placed in a regimen of drugs including heroin and cocaine which have changed his personality and triggered intense rages.

When the investigation begins, a young housemaid named Polly is missing and the butler - Mr. Dodds - soon disappears too. As they track down the missing they discover a network of illegal drugs and prostitution and all sorts of other social ills.

I liked the setting very much. I learned that London was bombed by Zeppelins during World War I. I learned the state of medicine which lacks antibiotics and routinely prescribed opiates to suffers of all ages. No prescription needed to stop in at a local pharmacy and buy all the heroin or cocaine a person could want. It was also interesting to visit houses of prostitution including one devoted to homosexual young men who were used for all manner of kinky sexual things.

This was an entertaining beginning to a new series of historical mysteries. I liked meeting the interesting characters who will make up the new task force. I look forward to more stories that have them working to solve crimes.

Favorite Quote:
Caroline was alarmed. "It all sounds very dangerous, Mr. Tollman."

Arthur smiled. "Begging your pardon, Doctor Allardyce, but I would rather stick my neck in a gang hideout than negotiate with some of the harridans that are running the volunteer policewoman patrols."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love getting comments. Let me know what you think.

This blog is now officially declared an Award Free zone! I do appreciate your kindness in thinking of me and I am humbled by your generosity.

Your comments are award enough for me. Comment away!