Reviewer Valerie Porter: Valerie is a freelance magazine writer and co-author of 5 books. She has also been a freelance book reviewer for a weekly Los Angeles newspaper and has written her own book blog.
She is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction.
AUTHOR: Charles Kingston
This book has all the elements of a good, modern-day crime/mystery novel – London’s wealthy class vs. the poor, a night club dancer who schemes to marry a man expected to inherit a fortune, the wealthy uncle whose death is the only way the young couple can marry, and a plot for what seems like the perfect murder.
The only difference is that this exciting work was written nearly 80 years ago. It’s part of a recently discovered treasure trove of novels from the British Library, all originally published during the Golden Age of British Crime writing. The current publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, plans a release of 12 books in total this year, and another 12 in 2016. The authors of the books were all pioneers in crime fiction or spy fiction – all before such genres officially existed.
This book’s author, Charles Kingston, wrote with a style that was on one hand clearly a reflection of an earlier London in style and customs, yet the plot and writing fit in beautifully with today’s world, as well. There’s no flowery language – it’s just an honest-to-goodness joy to read.
At the heart of the story are several characters of varying degrees of class and morals. It begins with young Bobbie Cheldon, who wishes to marry Nancy, a dancer at a Soho night club. He’s madly in love. She’s in love, too – with the prospects of the fortune and status Bobbie stands to inherit if his miserly Uncle Massy Cheldon would just pass away. Bobbie, with only a modest level of finances, knows that Nancy aspires to a high level of stature and fears he cannot yet provide it. Then, one day, the family maid tells him that her boyfriend has left her for a wealthy woman, courtesy of the suspicious passing of a wealthy uncle. Bobbie thinks of the similarities to his situation, and once he spends more time with Nancy’s unscrupulous friends Nosey Ruslin and dancer Bobby Bright, a plot hatches.
We are also introduced to Chief Inspector Wake of Scotland Yard, who’s already watching the activities of Nosey Ruslin and Bobby Bright. A clever cat and mouse game ensues, and to say more would give away key elements of the story. Then, just when readers feel the loose ends of the story are being tied up, the last 20 pages or so include not one but two twists that come out of the blue – a perfect end to a gem of a novel.
Originally published in 1936, Murder in Piccadilly is still relevant and highly readable today.