My thanks to Allison & Busby and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Murder at Claridge’s is the third of the historical Hotel Mysteries series by Jim Eldridge and the second that I’m reading and reviewing (I also read and enjoyed book 2, Murder at the Savoy, last year). The series is a police procedural set in 1940s London amidst the blitz and we follow Chief Inspector Edgar Saxe-Coburg of Scotland Yard (not serving in the war because of a damaged lung), younger brother of a peer, as he and his partner Sargent Lampson solve cases, as well as deal with problems of daily life. Edgar is married to Rosa Weekes, a jazz pianist and singer, who during the war is volunteering with the St John’s Ambulance. Lampson has lost his wife, and is dealing with a teenaged son who seems to be getting out of hand, though he is helped by his parents in caring for the boy. Chief Inspector Coburg finds his social position both a blessing and a curse for while it helps open doors and aid investigations when the upper echelons of society are involved, it has also earned him a nemesis in Inspector Lomax, a working-class man who believes Chief Inspector Coburg has got to where he is only because of his social status (rather than any talent), and is resentful (somewhat justifiably so) when cases involving the upper crust are taken from him and handed to Coburg.

And this is what unfolds in this book at well. A kitchen hand is murdered, in fact garrotted, just outside the entrance to the kitchens of the Claridge’s. Inspector Lomax is called to the scene and begins his investigation in a rather heavy-handed manner, pronouncing the kitchen too hot and questioning the staff superficially before moving the body out. Meanwhile Coburg and Lampson who are dealing with the case of a domestic violence victim who finally couldn’t take it anymore, are put onto the Claridge’s murder by the Superintendent, for Rupert D’Oyly Carte prefers the case be handled by Coburg since a lot of European royalty is living at the Claridge’s. Needless to say, this worsens things with Lomax, who once again makes allegations of nepotism, and such. Alongside, we have some gangsters, Hooky Morton and Roly Fitt engaged in a battle over black-marketing and their goons switching sides, which leads to some other deaths, and then another murder similar to but seemingly unconnected with the Claridge’s murder on which once again Lomax is called in. Also, Lampson is working out a plan to get his son away from the bad company he seems to have fallen into (which also throws up the promise of some romance for Lampson) while Rosa wishes to do more than just her volunteering work so that she can help people much more than she has been doing.

This was an enjoyable read for me, just like the previous book in the series I read. I find I really get along with Eldridge’s writing; the book moved well and kept me reading, both in its pace and plot. I also quite like the characters, Coburg and Rosa, Lampson (and his family), and Coburg’s older brother the Earl of Dawlish (though in this book, he only has a minor role—one telephone call).

The historical setting and detail are nicely done, and I think the author manages to combine real (events and characters) and fictional elements in a successful way. Being set in the blitz, one really gets a feel of what life would have been like in those times—on the one side we have people leading (or at least attempting to) what one might call are normal, ordinary lives, but at the same time, one never knows when one encounters the worst either—buildings disappearing and colleagues or friends dying right before one’s eyes, spending every night in a shelter, rationing every little thing, but worst of all, living without a sense of security at all times (This is something one sees across the books). Besides the atmosphere of the blitz, we also get an idea of the broader politics of the time (which has a role to play in the story as well)—from the various European governments that operated out of London at the time, to the fraught relationship with the French (which I hadn’t realised continued even when they were allies) as the British continued to support the Vichy regime led by Marshall Pétain while also giving space to De Gaulle and his ‘government’ for the support they received. I hadn’t realised quite how complicated things were in this sense at the time. I also enjoyed meeting the real-life characters that make an appearance like Peter Fleming, brother of Ian, whom I last ‘met’ in Wuhan, while Oswald Mosley and D’Oyly Carte are mentioned as in the previous book.

The mystery or rather mysteries in the story are interesting and keep one engaged all through. We have several threads going on from the Claridge’s murder to the other similar death that takes place, the gang fight of sorts that is going on, as well as the domestic violence case that Coburg and Lampson are working on and some other illegal activities they end up uncovering. Some of these are connected, and others not and there is more than one twist or development that I didn’t see coming at all.

This is rather a packed book, really, with a lot going on from police work and the different mystery/investigation threads, to Rosa’s experiences volunteering and her wanting to do more, her performances as singer and pianist, Lampson’s troubles with his son, the antagonism with Lomax and his team and a whole lot more. In a sense, it is very much a reflection of real life, where it isn’t as though one case is all that a policeman (or any detective for that matter) handles, and where personal life doesn’t stop or take a backseat either, and I thought Eldridge did a great job of weaving all this in such that one can follow all the developments while keeping everything straight in one’s mind. But at the same time, if it makes sense, sometimes it did feel like there was a bit too much going on as well. Also, one other small niggle was that I’d have liked to get more of a ‘feel’ of the Claridge’s itself.

But overall, this is a good and engaging police procedural with likeable characters, and a solid historical background and detail. I’m excited to see where the next book in this series takes place, and what lies ahead for Coburg, Rosa, and Lampson!

4.25 stars.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Murder at Claridge’s by Jim Eldridge

  1. I love that cover, it gives me a good idea of the setting, time period, and mood of the book. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. Sounds like an interesting series. I’ve just been reading about all the Vichy/de Gaulle stuff in Churchill’s history so I can feel quite smug for knowing about that complication! 😉

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    1. Ha ha 🙂 Like me in the last book, since I’d just read an excellent nonfic about the Savoy and the D’Oyly Cartes. This one mentioned Churchill’s speech appeasing the French when tensions were running too high. It is an interesting series–and certainly gives one an idea of what it would have been like to be living in London in the midst of the Blitz. We also have lots of real life characters popping in and out as well and a look into the general political scenario as well,

      Liked by 1 person

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