With the help of contacts from his former PI days and Charles’ attractive assistant, the razor-sharp Maria Dupré, Langham tries to find the culprit before the incriminating pictures become public. However, it soon becomes apparent this is no ordinary case of extortion.
This is a fun old-fashioned mystery set amid London’s bustling literary community. There are occasional references to the war, and the neighborhoods and environs of the city are vividly described, but otherwise the historical backdrop isn’t prominent. As the tension ratchets ever higher, Langham and Maria begin falling in love, and their sweet, un-angsty romance is a pleasure to follow. A good-hearted, portly man who appreciates the finer things in life, Charles is quite an entertaining character, although some phrases he uses are overdone. He calls Langham "my dear boy" over thirty times in all!
The best part involves just sitting back and watching all the literary types – agents, editors, successful authors, disgruntled hacks, and a grande dame novelist in the Agatha Christie mold – interact within the sometimes congenial, sometimes cutthroat publishing scene. Langham is also a freelance critic of some note, and after an old friend offers to meet him for a pint, Langham tells him, “You’ve saved me from a dull evening of reading for review.” This reviewer, fortunately, had no such worries with this book.
Murder By the Book, first volume of the Langham and Dupré mysteries, was published in July 2013 by Crème de la Crime, a mystery imprint of Severn House ($28.95/£19.99, hb, 224pp). This may be the first historical I've read with a book reviewer as protagonist! This review first appeared in the Historical Novels Review's August issue as an online exclusive.