I was lucky enough to be given a free copy of this lovely hardback, and still it cost me twenty quid. That Eric Brown can be a bastard like that.
Murder by the Book, a debut crime novel from a writer who has been publishing book-length fiction for nearly 25 years, winner and shortlistee of many awards, his books and short stories have mainly stuck to his science-fiction roots, straying occasionally into fantasy and horror (of the gentle, psychological variety), and a wide variety of fiction for teenagers and younger.
Murder by the Book is the first Langham and Dupre mystery. Don Langham is a middlingly successful 1950s crime novelist, Maria Dupre is the assistant to Langham’s delightfully over the top literary agent Charles Elder. The two are drawn together when Elder becomes the subject of a blackmail plot, with an extortionist demanding payment for some dodgy photos of Elder’s dalliance with a young man at a local swimming pool.
Before long blackmail turns to something far more sinister as it becomes clear that a recent flurry of deaths among London’s crime-writing fraternity are not the accidents they had first appeared. Murder by the Book is a cracking crime novel, with satisfying twists and turns along the way, but what is most striking – and engaging – about the book is the affectionate portrayal of 1950s London and the crime-writing community of the time. Much like Midsomer Murders, Brown has turned in a highly enjoyable crime romp that never takes itself too seriously, but always with a straight face; and also much like Midsomer Murders victims are soon dropping like flies.
Occasionally rushed, where a little more delay might have heightened the tension, Murder by the Book is the most fun I’ve had within the pages of a book in a long time, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next in the series.
That twenty quid? About a third of the way into reading the book I lost my copy, and I was enjoying it so much I had to buy a replacement. It’s very frustrating that such a good book is priced so highly (in both its hardback and ebook editions), but I still blame Eric for writing such a good book that I just had to cough up at Amazon. That Eric Brown: he’s wasted on science fiction.
Murder by the Book is published by Severn House (the price of the hardback has since dropped to £14.99) and is available at Amazon, etc.