Title: Murder in Piccadilly
Author: Charles Kingston
First published in 1936; re-published by British Library on 5th May 2015
Genre: Golden Age Mystery
Bobbie Cheldon has fallen in love with a nightclub dancer named Nancy Curzon. He dreams of marrying her. Meanwhile, Nancy has other plans. She’s might be in love with Bobbie but she’s more in love with the fortune he’s going to inherit when his uncle Massy Cheldon passes away.
Ruby, Bobbie’s mother, speaks to Massy about her son’s plan to marry Nancy. Massy wants his nephew to get a job and earn on his own rather than depending on him for allowance. Massy finally agrees to meet the girl and see for himself. If he likes her, he would give Bobbie an allowance.
Ruby hosts a party and invites Nancy. Massy is supposed to ‘gatecrash’ the party. Ruby meets the girl for the first time and dislikes her immediately. She’s afraid that the girl loves Bobbie’s inheritance more than she loves him. After the party, Ruby asks Massy to break her son’s engagement and Massy readily agrees. Billy Bright – Nancy’s dance partner- and Peter ‘Nosey’ Ruslin – Nancy’s agent – have other plans for Uncle Massy and Bobbie.
A tangled web of love affair, blackmail, inheritance and innocence, Murder in Piccadilly is an entertaining and enjoyable read.
The murder does not occur until the first half of the story but do not let this disappoint you. Kingston does an amazing job of weaving a brilliant plot to commit a murder. As the story begins, we are introduced to Ruby, Massy and Bobbie. Bobbie is your typical mamma’s boy. Pampered and spoiled to the core! Massy is, what Bobbie calls the Prince of Snobs. Well, the man might be snobbish but Bobbie is the Prince of Lazy Bums so who’s complaining?
The twist to the story is when Nosey turns out to be ‘a shoulder to cry on’ for Bobbie. He poisons the poor chap’s mind with ill-thoughts about Uncle Massy. Don’t be fooled, for Billy Bright and Nosey Ruslin are cooking quite a poisonous stew behind Bobbie’s back!
The murder scene soon turns out to be a ‘picnic spot’ – The Piccadilly station manager claims to have sold more number of tickets than ever – even if it just a penny ticket. People are thronging the station to pay a visit to the ‘scene of crime.’ Chief Inspector Wake and his side-kick Sergeant Clarke don their detective hats and off they go in search of clues.
They do come across some startling revelations, all right. If Nosey Ruslin can play games with Wake, so can Wake. Nosey and Wake seem to be arch-enemies. Wake’s never been able to arrest Nosey before and he’s itching to do so. Meanwhile, Nosey hates the inspector’s guts – calls him ‘Wideawake’. (Get it??)
Bobbie plays the role of a man blindly in love. The poor chap doesn’t know that he will have to pay a price for falling in love (with the wrong person). At times, I felt like diving into my kindle and give Bobbie a slap or two. The innocent bugger has no idea that Ruslin and Billy are playing a game. Then there is Nancy. Ugh! Such a drama queen, I tell you!! And a gold-digger too!
There isn’t much of ‘mystery’ in the story. The clues are stated plainly so the reader doesn’t have to use their grey cells. However, the plot to blackmail Bobbie is brilliantly concocted and is not to be missed. Emotions are at a high and so is Wake’s deadline to solve the case.
If I have to sum up the ending in a sentence, I would say, “Expect the unexpected.” I liked the ending – it was weird yet surprising. If you love ‘majestic’ endings, you might be disappointed, … or not. I cannot say much about the ‘surprising’ element here without giving away spoilers.
Overall, Murder in Piccadilly is a good read. I am looking forward to reading more of Charles Kingston’s books.