Author: Lynn Brittney
Published: March 2018 by Mirror Books
Category: Historical Fiction, Murder, Mystery
Set against the backdrop of WW1, Mayfair 100 is the telephone number for a small, specially formed crimebusting team based in a house in Mayfair, London in 1915. Just 10 months into the First World War, the City is flooded with women taking over the work vacated by men in the Armed Services.
The first in a new historical crime series set in London during WW1, Murder in Belgavia introduces an engaging mix of characters. Chief Inspector Peter Beech was removed from active service after being injured during one of the first battles. He’s been called to investigate the murder of Lord Murcheson. The victim’s wife is a key witness and also a suspect. She is in obvious pain but declines to be examined by her husband’s physician. Beech persuades her to go to the Women’s hospital and see a friend of his, Dr Caroline Allardyce.
Although women are now taking many of the roles previously occupied by men who are now in the Armed Services, men in senior positions, particularly the Metropolitan Police, are still set against employing women. Beech knows this has to change and is determined to put an idea to the Police Commissioner.
Beech nodded but persisted. “What if I were to suggest an unofficial solution…an experiment if you like…something that would operate outside of Scotland Yard and not affect the day-to-day running of the police force.”
“Go on,” Sir Edward replied, seemingly amenable.
Beech then outlined his proposal. To create a small team of two women — a detective and a doctor — and two men — one to safeguard the women and another to do complimentary detective work.
So, along with himself and Caroline, Beech enlisted the help of retired detective Arthur Tollman, former boxing champion PC Bill Rigsby who was also injured in the war, and widow Victoria Ellingham.
The investigation into Lord Murcheson’s death uncovers much more that the newly formed task force could have imagined, taking them in the seedy underworld of London where drugs, violence, gangs and prostitution are rife and opiates are in general use and sold in pharmacies.
Lady Harriet Murcheson is dangerously ill, her maid has disappeared, the butler is nowhere to be found and London comes under attack from the skies.
I enjoyed this historical murder mystery very much, certainly enough to get the second book in the series. Obviously well researched, the descriptive period detail adds to the sense of place and realism…as well as the horror and terror. It’s also a gritty look at life for the less fortunate. I knew nothing about Molly Houses. The plot is plausible and twisty enough to keep the reader engaged.
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Lynn Brittany has been a writer for almost thirty years and has written several adult and children’s non-fiction books and many plays for adults and children that have been performed all over the world. Her first young adult novel was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize; the Brandford Boase Award and the Doncaster Book Prize. Her second young adult novel was included in the UK Government’s Recommended Reading List for Boys and was described by the Daily Telegraph as containing…”furious swordplay, tremendous chases, atmospheric journeys and wince-inducing reminders that this was an age before anaesthetics.”