New Book – A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia by Clara Benson

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Publishing year: 2016

This is the first book in a new series by Clara Benson.

It features Freddy Pilkington-Soames, the young cheeky reporter who was friends with Angela Marchmont. I liked Freddy, so I am glad to see him again.

The beginning of the book starts in a restaurant where a group of upper-class people gather to celebrate a birthday. The people in the restaurant are Cynthia Pilkington-Soames, Freddy’s mother and writer of a gossip column in “The Clarion”; Captain Maurice Atherton, an explorer; Mrs Blanche von Leeuwen, an Australian woman on her second marriage; Nancy and Denis Beasley, who have been married for ten years but have had a stormy relationship due to Denis’s roving eye; Lady Sarah Bendish, who I don’t know much about, and Nicholas Maltravers, known as Ticky, whose birthday they are celebrating. During the dinner the group gives Ticky his birthday present, a flask he fills with brandy.

At the end of the dinner Mrs Blanche Leeuwen takes in her motor car the Beasleys and Lady Beasley, Captain Atherton decides to leave on foot, and Cynthia and Ticky share a taxi. When the taxi leave them, Ticky starts feeling sick and collapses. Cynthia realizes he is dead and she panics. When Freddy returns after a night drinking with his pals, he finds the corpse in the hall, and his mother asks him to get rid of him. He doesn’t want scandal to hit her as before dying, Ticky said that he had been poisoned, and since Freddy is inebriated, he heeds her. Using a toy wagon he had as a child, he takes the body and leaves him on the porch of his house. Yet, the following day when news reaches him, he realizes that instead of leaving Ticky at his house, he left him on his neighbour’s porch.

The police soon realize that Ticky’s death is not due to natural causes, and the man was poisoned. They also know that Ticky didn’t collapse where they found him, but he was transported from somewhere else. As a reporter, Freddy learns these things and gets nervous because of the consequences if the truth were to be known. He confronts his mother, and she tells him that she is afraid because apparently Ticky was blackmailing her about some gambling debts, and she knows that she wasn’t the only one. She imagines he did the same with the rest of the party that was in the restaurant the night the man was killed. Cynthia asks Freddy to try to get into Ticky’s house and find something incriminating. However, Freddy is unable to do that as Ticky’s manservant was away that weekend, and on Monday when he returns, he sees that the house has been burgled, but Weaver, the manservant, claims nothing has been taken. Yet, his shock comes when Weaver tells him that he plans to keep blackmailing Freddy’s mother, and he has the evidence stored safely.

Apart from the characters I have mentioned, there are a few others, but I don’t think they can be suspects, but they might important in the development of the book. There is Larry Bendish, Lady Bendish’s son, who is engaged to Ann Chadwick, Nancy Beasley’s secretary. There is also Blanche von Leeuwen’s daughter, Amelia Drinkwater, who is friends to the previous pair. Apparently, Amelia had a crutch on Larry Bendish, but her friend Ann got the guy in the end. When her mother mentions this, Amelia brushes her concern off, but I wonder if she is telling the truth, or if she is really hurt to see her friend and Larry together. When Freddy meets them at some kind of charity event, he seems to be attracted to Amelia. I wonder if he will pursue the girl or not. At the same event Freddy meets another young woman, who he catches stealing some silver cutlery. She is from the lower classes, and she is rebellious and talks about the unfairness in the difference between rich and poor people. We don’t know the name of this young woman, but I have the hunch we will see her again.

Interesting start with great characters. I love Freddy, and even though his mother is infuriating, I like her too. I have no idea who the killer is as it seems Ticky wasn’t liked by any of them. We know that the poison was in the flask, so the killer must have planned to plant the poison there somehow.

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