Compartmentalising crime novels is something we all do, especially reviewers who need to put tags in their posts, but it really isn’t too helpful, especially when a writer may seem to be firmly rooted in one genre, but in fact is offering something much more subtle. Guy Fraser-Sampson (left) is one such chap with his Hampstead Murders series. Obviously, nothing very dark can happen in the airy tree-lined streets of London’s most expensive and exclusive suburb – or can it? The House On Downshire Hill is the fifth in the series and existing admirers will welcome the return of the Fraser-Sampson repertory company, which comprises the urbane and unflappable Superintendent Simon Collison, and the earnest DI Bob Metcalfe and his former girlfriend DS Kate Willis. The impossibly glamorous Willis once had an improbable ménage à trois with Metcalfe and an eccentric psychoanalyist called Peter Collins, but Metcalfe now has a new girlfriend. Collins is less prominent in this novel and his place centre stage is taken by the enthusiastic (but slightly unworldly) DC Priya Desai.
Is this just a cosy read, and an amiable pastiche of Golden Age crime fiction? I would say not. Fraser- Sampson is unapologetic in his admiration for ‘the way we were’ and astute folk will recognise that he has produced a series of follow-ons to EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books. The House On Downshire Hill however, is not just an affectionate tribute. The writing is elegant and assured, and the characters – particularly the coppers – all have their dark moments. True, there are no scenes of butchery which will make you want to go to sleep with the bedroom light on, but this an entertaining and beautifully written crime novel. It is published by Urbane Publications and is out now.
Follow these links to read reviews of previous books in the series.