Monday, November 27, 2023

A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia (2016) by Clara Benson

💰 Ticky Maltravers is what you would call in 1929 as the toast of London high society. One would surely find him in parties, and people use to invite him in their dinner parties. One could say that Ticky almost never eats at his own home. Does that mean Ticky is a loveable person? Not necessarily. At his own birthday party (thrown by his friends, of course, Ticky NEVER had his own party), someone poisoned him. Investigation that follows reveal that the poison must have administered by one of the guests, who is one of his so called friends.

💰 Freddie Pilkington-Soames is at another dinner party when it happened, and he (by a hilarious complication such as what usually befalls Bertie Wooster in P.G. Wodehouse realm) went straight to his mother's house very drunk. His mother, Cynthia, is one of Ticky's circle who attended the party. She and Ticky came home in a taxi (Ticky lives several houses near hers), and dropped dead in front of her house after saying that he's been poisoned!

💰 Normal people would have telephoned the police or an ambulance, but not Cynthia Pilkington-Soames. Of course, in a story which was a combination between Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, the characters won't take the ordinary road. No, instead, Cynthia asked Freddie to move the body to the deceased's own house. Freddie who, being very drunk, couldn't think straight, did what his mother bid him. The body-moving scene was very hilarious, involving some heaving, some miscalculation, and a toy wheelbarrow! But it was done eventually.

💰 When Freddie woke up the next morning, sober and the intelligent himself again, he realized with a chagrin that he mistakenly put the corpse to the house nextdoor instead of Ticky's (which would have been thought of as a drunken-man-collapsed-after-party-incident, and won't raise much suspicion). As it was, the queer incident puzzled the police.

💰 Freddie is a journalist, and he was lucky to have secured Ticky's case to handle, as he need to know whether the police suspected him or her mother's involvement (and to avert suspicion if any). One thing lead to another, and before he knew it, Freddie has become an amateur sleuth. He has a bigger advantage than the police, because he's one of the circle - the insider - while the police can't get anything from those posh people.

💰 As you can imagine, this was a highly entertaining murder story. When I said it's a cross between Wodehouse and Christie, I wasn't exaggerating. While the hilarity and the gentry's life reminds you a lot of Bertie Wooster, the plot has Christie's touch in its simplicity and complexity at the same time. And considering this was Clara Benson's debut novel in the series, made it more amazing.

💰 I'm fond of every element in this book, but most importantly the characters. They all feel real. Ticky is what I can imagine a slimy social parasite is. Someone who takes for granted others' generosity because he has everybody in his grasp. And the name choice is brilliant, Ticky the tick! The posh gentry are what I imagine the suspects are going to be - indifferent of anything else as long as their reputation is save. And that's what made Ticky a successful blackmailer (you know it's a blackmail from the first, of course, thanks to the title), and a potential murder victim.

💰 Freddie is my favorite, he's the bridge between the gentry and working class, and he has such a pleasant personality. I loved what he did in the end, he completed it remarkably; only few people can resist the temptation when they had other's vulnerability in their hands. All in all, it's a successful debut, and I can't wait to continue on through the series!

Rating: 4,5 / 5


  1. If this book really feels like a combination of A. Christie and P.G. Wodehouse then I know I would love it. Just the thought of Freddie putting the corpse in the house next door when he was drunk makes me laugh. :D

    1. That scene is the most hilarious!! Hope you'll find it delightful too, Lark! ;)

  2. I enjoyed this one a lot too. It was very Wodehousian and Freddie as I'd mentioned in my review came across to me as a cleverer version of Freddie Threepwood.

    1. Now I need to read Wodehouse's Blandings stories, if its Freddie is similar to Benson's Freddie!


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