A historical mystery set in an intriguing time and place. I figured I’d take a chance on A Bespoke Murder, by Edward Marston.
It’s 1915, and England is at war. In the wake of the sinking of the Lusitania, anti-German sentiment is boiling over in England. Even in London’s posh West End, Jacob Stein’s fashionable tailor shop is smashed up by a mob, and set on fire. Mr. Stein himself is left dead. And his daughter is raped.
But Stein’s death was not random violence. Someone stabbed him, and made away with the contents of his safe. That makes it look like premeditated murder. Particularly since Stein was not merely German, but Jewish.
Inspector Harvey Marmion and his assistant Sergeant Joe Keedy are assigned to investigate. From the beginning, their work is hindered by the meddling of Stein’s blustering brother, and by the fears of the traumatized daughter. They will have to descend into the dark world of antisemitic political groups to unmask the true villain.
In spite of an interesting mystery and an interesting setting, I found A Bespoke Murder a disappointment, for several reasons. First of all, the characters weren’t very vivid. The good characters acted and spoke very much as people do today – even sometimes using neologisms like “hassling” for “bothering.” A fair amount of research must have been done on this book – why not throw in some contemporary idioms in the dialogue? Not a lot, but a sprinkling would have added verisimilitude. And the “good people” were just so pleasant. Very little friction or conflict between them, and few attitudes expressed that would make 21st Century people uncomfortable. The book seemed to me overwritten, and aimed at an unsophisticated audience.
I finished the book to find out whodunnit, but although there are several sequels, I’m not interested enough in these characters to read them.