A murder at Westminster Abbey gets the beginning of A Grave Man to a cracking pace and sets the tone for the rest of the book. After the initial murder, events and opportunities present themselves in rapid succession and there is no lull in the book’s story. There is a wonderful selection of characters. Ranging from the abdicated Duke of Windsor to Himmler; the menacing surgeon, Montillo, and the supposedly innocent Lord Castlewood. Such a cast of people is very reminiscent of Sayers and Christie - a big compliment in my opinion.
With Lord Edward Corinth and Verity Browne, the road is particularly rocky as Roberts shows us not only the professional aspect of the couple, but the inner turmoil of their feelings about each other. Verity has always been very forthright about her views, but I found in this book that she came across as particularly childish and annoying. I think it is about time that Verity took a long journalistic ‘vacation’ and we were treated to a lone novel with Lord Edward. It would do him the power of good to get Ms. Browne out of his system and for his readers to see the real man behind the title.
Apart from this minor quibble, the book is a great read and a rollicking good adventure. Mr. Roberts has certainly done his homework with regard to the political machinations in Britain and Europe that were taking place during the lead up to World War II. He is to be commended on given us such accuracy and at the same time not letting too much information impede the momentum of the storyline. A brilliant novel, which should be in every crime fiction aficionado’s stocking!
Reviewed by C.S.
1) How would you describe your books?
Detective stories set in the 1930s with a hint of Dorothy L Sayers!
2) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Dorothy L Sayers The Nine Taylors
3) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I like the less violent, perhaps old-fashioned authors - Christie of course, P D James, Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Highsmith Natasha Cooper, etc. I like a puzzle set against an interesting background with at least one likeable character.
4) Who, in your eyes, is pushing the boundaries of crime fiction today - and why?
I don't know I want the boundaries pushed but I like two very different Americans - Elmore Leonard and John Kanon. Leonard's dialogue is the best of any writer I have read.
5) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I suppose it has to be the Murder of Roger Ackroyd or maybe The Nine Taylors
6) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
I like Highsmith's/Hitchcock's Stangers on a Train and Christie's/Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution but film isn't the best medium for classic crime fiction.
7) What made you decide to write a series of crime novels set in the 1920/30's?
It's a period I know well. There are so many memoirs, diaries and histories of the period it is easier to get the rhythm of speech of that generation than say imagine how a medieval knight might think and speak. It's a period far enough away to be history but near enough so we can feel the generation who had to face the war were very similar to ourselves. And what a period! As Auden said - a low, dishonest decade - ending up with Wagnerian inevitability with the outbreak of war.
8) As you have set your series in the Golden Age, are you an ardent fan of Classic Crime fiction like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers? If so, who are your favourite writers of that age?
Well, apart from those mentioned - Edmund Crispin, Francis Iles, Michael Innes, Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham
9) Where do you see Crime fiction going next?
I don't think it has to go anywhere next! Crime fiction is different from thrillers and spy stories and vive la difference! What I really hate are fictional serial crimes. Bang, bang, who cares? You'd think there are hundreds of these monsters to judge from modern crime fiction but they are incredibly rare. I hate having a mad criminal because how uninteresting to have to outsmart a motiveless killer. I like intelligent, ruthless killers masquerading as benevolent country doctors or vicars. That's what Christie does so well - here's a normal English village - all cream tea and scones but there's a body in the library!