1924, London, in particular the Britannia, an exclusive gentleman’s club exclusively for ex-servicemen. It is a haven for many, especially those whose memories of the trenches are still haunting them. One such person is Lieutenant Eric Peterkin, a man whose family have always been members of the club, who has been welcomed into the club. But the club isn’t the safe place that he thought it would be.
Albert Benson, another new member of the club (odd as he was a conscientious objector) takes up a wager with Captain Wolfe that Wolfe cannot steal the contents of his safety deposit box – a box that contains materials that will right a past wrong. But before the theft can take place, Benson is found stabbed in the vault, the contents of his box missing. When the investigating policeman is someone who has links to Benson in the past, Peterkin decides to take matters into his own hands.
Christopher Huang is a new author in the detective fiction genre, and this was sent to me by the publishers. I’ll admit, I was wary. After all, this is recommended, according to the pull-quotes, for fans of (deep breath) Anthony Horowitz, Charles Todd, Anne Perry, Agatha Christie, Gillian Flynn and Dorothy L Sayers. That’s quite a shopping list, and, as we established with Thirteen recently, I’m becoming a bit wary of pull quotes.
Luckily, it’s not a problem this time. This is a very impressive debut novel that does indeed tick a lot of the above boxes. The plot is suitably complex while still being perfectly easy to follow. It doesn’t stand still at any point, moving from the club to an old war hospital to an opium den, with the characters, in particular Peterkin himself, feeling like real people with real concerns. Peterkin has issues, notably PTSD, but not in such a way that the writer ever takes time off from the story to dwell on them.
The mystery element is well done, with a hidden big picture that comes into place and makes perfect sense when it does. While I thought as the tale neared the finale that the murderer was a little inevitable – that might of course just be me – the truth behind what happened eluded me completely, despite making perfect sense.
So what do we have here? A detective story echoing the Golden Age with some significant emotional depth afforded to its characters. Even better, the hero’s post-war job is as a reviewer of detective fiction. No wonder it appealed. This is an exceptionally strong debut from Christopher Huang, and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
A Gentleman’s Murder is released by Inkshares on 31st July 2018.