Inkshares (July 31, 2018)
Kindle edition: $6.99
by Larry Jung
For those who like the Agatha Christie’s mysteries from the 1920s and 1940s, they will be right at home with this mystery and whodunit by Christopher Huang. A GENTLEMAN’S MURDER is set in 1924, London, England. The Britannia is an exclusive gentlemen’s club. There is a prominent painting of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table that symbolizes the club’s lofty purpose and ideals. Membership is only for those who have served Britain in war. One such member is Eric Peterkin. He is a veteran of the trenches during World War I. He owes his membership less to fighting for his country but to his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. A Peterkin was a founder of the club, and the saying around the club goes that there will always be a Peterkins in the Britannia. It is only the great respect for the Peterkin’s name that Eric is a member. Normally Eric would be barred from membership being half Chinese on his mother’s side. The club officers constantly remind Eric of this.
Eric doesn’t make a fuss and accepts his status. He identifies himself with Sir Palomides, a Saracen, and a Knight of the Round Table. He is completely devoted to the Britannia, particularly to the current club officers. Because of this, Eric takes particular interest in the newest member, Albert Benson. A most unlikely candidate is Albert Benson. He was a conscientious objector during the war and obviously not an English gentleman. To Benson’s credit, though, he was for a short time a stretcher bearer at the front before returning to England to be a medical aide at a hospital for the war wounded. Benson’s sponsor for membership is even more surprising to Eric than a conscientious objector be a fellow member. Benson’s sponsor for club membership is Oliver Saxon, a Lord with no particular sympathy for the lower classes. Something is going on and Eric decides to find out what.
Before 24 hours have passed, Albert Benson is found in the locked vault of the Club. He has been stabbed. The murder weapon is the letter opener owned by the Club president, Edward Aldershott. It appears Aldershott’s office at the club was broken into the night of the murder, but nothing was taken except the letter opener. From the very start, Eric feels something is wrong. There is the natural desire to keep the murder quiet to prevent a scandal. But it seems more than that to Eric. Eric is being intentionally shutout. Even the Scotland Yard inspector is seen by Eric to suppress evidence. Eric sees that it will be up to him to carry though a real investigation. After all, the Britannia Club is fundamentally a Peterkin’s concern.
In this case Albert Benson was a member of the Club, no matter how brief, and according to Eric, Benson deserves the club’s respect and justice.
Eric finds roadblocks, deception, and even threats to his very life. Early on Eric concludes that only a member of the club could possibly have committed the crime. His suspicion even falls on the club officers as well as the Scotland Yard inspector.
I enjoyed A GENTLEMAN’S MURDER. The author presents a tidy puzzle with the expected red herrings and plot twists. The narrative and dialogue flow easily and no special knowledge of the time period is expected. You can play along and try to solve the mystery. There is even the denouement where all the suspects are gathered together and all is explained.
My only criticism is that the characters are two dimensional. Predictably they are there to serve the plot – gentleman rouge, eccentric aristocrat, sweet damsel in distress, rigid conservative, comedic side-kick. While playing these roles, none rise to be a rounded character. This is a little strange because the story is about the masks they wear to fit their roles in society and how these masks hide who they really are.
Overall the author has pulled off a whodunit that does credit to the genre.
Edcom: A GENTLEMAN’S MURDER is in development for television. More details, as they become available.
Copyright © 2018 Larry Jung. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!