Saturday, October 01, 2005

BOOK REVIEW: A Scandal in Belgravia

A Scandal in Belgravia, by Robert Barnard; 1991

This is a murder mystery but not a violent thriller. It is rather a measured, step-by-step investigation of a murder that had taken place thirty years earlier. Peter Proctor, a middle-aged former member of the British cabinet, is filling his retirement by writing his memoirs. He finds himself thinking more and more about Timothy Wycliffe, the son of a peer and a vibrant and charming young man. Peter and Timothy had started their political careers together in the Foreign Office. A few years later, life had taken them in separate directions. Then Timothy was murdered, supposedly by his homosexual lover. Peter wanted to know more.

Peter tracks down friends and relatives of Timothy and begins to piece the story together. He ponders the fact that at the time of the murder, homosexuality was illegal in England, and practicing homosexuals could be arrested and imprisoned. He realizes that the murder had not made a big splash in the press because it had occurred during the height of the Suez crisis. The story refers briefly to prime ministers and other political figures and scandals of the time.

Barnard's writing style is smooth and the story is told in such a gentle progression, that not until the end does the reader realize he has been set up.


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