Take a young aristocrat, not excessively bright, currently living on a very small allowance but who expects to inherit a substantial fortune when the current head of the family dies. Add a mercenary young lady, loved by the young aristocrat, who makes it clear that she will not marry a poor man. Mix in an unscrupulous interloper. The result, perhaps inevitably, is Murder in Piccadilly. The 1936 Golden Age novel by Charles Kingston is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
Murder in Piccadilly is another in the British Library Crime Classics series, published in the U.S. by Poisoned Pen Press, who made a copy available to me for this review. It's a combination of an "inverted crime story" and a Golden Age thriller. We get to see how the crime is conceived and carried out and then watch the cat-and-mouse game as detectives hunt for the evidence needed to show what really happened.
In Murder in Piccadilly, we are introduced to a young man named Bobbie Cheldon, an aristocrat who is definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Although young Bobbie is nearly penniless right now, he stands to inherit a rather large fortune when he succeeds to his rightful position as the titular head of his family. Unfortunately, his miserly uncle, Massy Cheldon, is the current family head, and looks quite likely to remain as such for at least a couple of decades to come. Now young Bobbie has fallen in love with a night club dancer named Nancy Curzon, who has made it VERY clear that she will not marry someone who is penniless.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Bobbie meets up with a highly unscrupulous character named Nosey Ruslin who – like Nancy – sees the potential for increasing his own wealth through Bobbie if only something were to happen to Massy Cheldon. And Nosey is never one to let a little thing like an untimely death stand between him and – he hopes – thousands of pounds a year.
All of which will, of course, lead to murder - a stabbing amid the rush-hour crowd at the Piccadilly underground station, with a thousand potential witnesses, NONE of whom can swear to what they have seen, or who might have committed the crime. Most frustrating, indeed, for Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Wake, who observes, "Somebody’s discovered the art of getting away with a murder, and I didn’t think anyone knew it except myself.”
It’s a fascinating and lively story. To be honest, in a book filled with distinctive characters, there are very few likely to draw much sympathy from the reader. But the author does a very nice job of roping us in and engaging us in the search for a wily killer – and there are some interesting and unexpected twists as we near the end of the chase. It's recommended.