Dickinson, David - 'Death in a Scarlet Coat'
It is the year 1909 and Lord Francis Powerscourt is driving his Rolls Royce Silver Ghost along the road towards Lincoln when after going over a small hill the car is sent into an unexpected ditch and the Lord and Lady Lucy, his wife, are forced to spend the night in in a local inn. The village in which it is located, is close to Candlesby Hall where the local hunt are due to set off from that morning but the Master of the Hunt is late. The awaiting riders are surprised to see a senior groom of Lord Candlesby, the Master, walking along a path leading to the Hall with the lord bundled over the saddle of the horse wrapped in a blanket. The sons of Lord Candlesby are informed that he is dead, murdered and his body in no condition to be shown to the other Hunt riders. The Hunt is cancelled for that day and a doctor urgently fetched.
Powerscourt is summoned and asked to offer his expertise as a detective in investigating the dreadful murder. With help of the local CID detective Inspector Blunden, he does start to do so, but encounters great difficulty in making any headway with investigation as the local Chief Constable is very difficult. The sons of the dead man are also very belligerent and no help at all until another death occurs. The dead lord had a terrible dissolute reputation and the estate was nearly bankrupt and all his neighbours hated him so there are many suspects for Lord Powerscourt to investigate. This deftly plotted, swiftly moving story rushes on to its very surprising climax. In a side plot an epidemic of influenza breaks out in the village and Lady Lucy steps in to help out, and clues about the occupants of Candlesby Hall are brought to the surface
This is the tenth book in the Lord Francis Powerscourt series of masterful stories set in the years before the First World War and is a very enjoyable historical thriller. The story is fully self-contained and one does not have to read all the previous ones to appreciate this one. There is a real sense of time and place and the convincing clues to the English world of 1909 are very evocative of that particular time. The story is also lightly humorous in places which make the pages just slip by. The author works for the BBC as a distinguished editor for Panorama and Newsnight. This is the first time I have read a 'Lord Francis Powerscourt' mystery and I'm sure it won't be the last. Well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England
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