Written by RT Raichev — This is the ninth investigation for husband and wife amateur sleuths Antonia Darcy and Major Hugh Payne. Bulgarian born writer and researcher Raichev launched this duo way back in 2009 with The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette, a novel that was set in the 1980s. Darcy, a recently divorced librarian paired up with Major Hugh Payne to solve crimes and they later married.
Here, a man called Charles Eresby is madly in love with Olga Klimt – so in love that he jilted his former fiancée, Joan Selwyn, just to be with her. Olga Klimt is young, foreign and incredibly beautiful, but she’s playing a very dangerous game with the men who have fallen in love with her, and she knows it could have fatal consequences. As the book opens, a distraught Charles wanders the streets of London believing his beloved Olga has just dumped him. How could she!? After all he’s given up for her. Trailing after him is his odious and frankly rather creepy gentleman’s gentleman, Bedaux. This man’s motives are highly questionable but he seems to have won the patronage of young Charles’ dear mamma. Feeling slighted, Charles now wants Olga dead and he wants Bedaux to organise it.
Bedaux is most definitely up to something, but killing Olga is not part of his plans. Well, not yet…
Emotionally overwrought, Charles makes himself ill and promptly collapses outside the gates of Jevanny Lodge, the exclusive school where Antonia Darcy just happens to be dropping off her grandson Eddy for his first day at nursery. Headmistress Miss Frayle takes charge of the situation, but it also transpires that she too has a problem in the form of a vicious old aunt intent on closing the school down. Before the afternoon is over, Charles and Miss Frayle seem to have agreed to solve each others’ problems. Things aren’t looking good for Olga, but Charles is hardly in the position to fulfill his part of the bargain as his collapse lands him in hospital.
Then a body is discovered on Olga’s doorstep. Young, blonde, and face down with a stab wound. It must be Olga. Only it’s not, it’s Joan Selwyn. Who could have killed her? Has Miss Frayle done it for Charles or is this the work of another man that Olga has crossed in love? Will they try again once they realise Olga isn’t dead? Enter Antonia and Hugh who have been asked by Charles’ stepfather, Lord Collingwood, to look into things informally. Watch out for the unexpected twist in the finale!
The first thing that strikes you about this book is that it has a slightly unusual feel to it. The story is written in the style of a classic crime novel. It has a hint of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train mixed with Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide, with Hugh taking on the role of Colonel Race and Antonia, Dr Catherine Kendall (who appeared in the 2003 television adaptation of the story). You could even say it’s like a crime fiction version of Jeeves and Wooster, with the dynamic between the ever dependent Charles and Bedaux. If you’re new to this series, it won’t be until a mobile phone appears that you realise it’s actually a contemporary story. So there’s a constant air of mystery about the period that will keeps you intrigued.
The Mystery Press
CFL Rating: 5 Stars