Two books from Urbane Publications this week, and they both look very tasty. I’ve become an avid fan of Guy Fraser-Sampson’s quirky Hampstead Murders series, but David Stuart Davies (left) and his copper DI Paul Snow are, for me, unexplored territory. David Stuart Davies is, as well as being an original author, is a noted editor of ghost stories and classic detective fiction, and an expert on Sherlock Holmes. In Blood Rites, Paul Snow has a problem. A Yorkshire police station in the 1980s is not the most favourable place or time to announce that you are a homosexual, and so Snow remains firmly ‘in the closet’. The self doubt and personal turmoil do not sit easy with Snow, especially when he is trying to bring to justice a killer whose crimes are clearly connected but apparently random. Snow’s lack of success sees him removed from the case, but he is determined to find the killer, and sets about the task privately. You can buy Blood Rites here, and check out two previous DI Snow titles, Brothers In Blood and Innocent Blood.
Guy Fraser-Sampson (right) is clearly a man who has an affinity with an England which, sadly, no longer exists. Precision and subtlety of language, exquisite manners and faithful adherence to social niceties are all terribly unfashionable, but Fraser-Sampson’s respect for them is shown in his revival of EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia characters, as in Lucia on Holiday and Au Reservoir.
Imagine presenting a premise for a new crime series to a world-weary literary agent. The two principle police officers are as follows: a sane, sober and happily married senior chap, with no personal demons or particular beef with his bosses; we also have a very posh lady detective who, if she didn’t go to Roedean, might well have. Throw into the mix a fragile and waif-like consultant psychologist who, when things get tough, imagines that he is Lord Peter Wimsey, and addresses the love of his life (the female detective) as “Harriet, old thing…” To compound the felony, the stories are set in the rarified atmosphere of one of England’s (if not the world’s) most exclusive locations – Hampstead, in London.
Now, be serious. This shouldn’t work, should it? Please take it from me that not only does it work, but it works in Spades. Fraser-Sampson is totally up-front about his influences, and what he is setting out to do. When I read the first book, Death In Profile, I was quite prepared to scoff, but within a very few pages, I was converted. This was followed in short order by Miss Christie Regrets and A Whiff of Cyanide.
The Hampstead team make a welcome return in A Death In The Night. We have professors, barristers, serial adulterers and exclusive clubs. Of course, we can’t have a crime novel without at least one body, and in this case it is that of the wife of a prominent lawyer. Can Metcalfe, Collins and Willis triumph over a distinct lack of evidence and bring a killer to justice?
If your local bookshop doesn’t stock it, then Amazon will have
To read the Fully Booked reviews of previous novels in the series, click the link