Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Release Date: 29 January 2004
ISBN: 1841196045
Format Reviewed: Hardback
Buy it at Amazon US || UK
Genre: Historical Crime [1899 London, Oxford, Norfolk & Corsica]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde

Death of an Old Master
Lord Francis Powerscourt Mystery, No. 3
By David Dickinson

       I remember reviewing the first book in this series, Goodnight, Sweet Prince (also reviewed on this site) and saying that it was “promising,” although overlong and lacking in suspense. Then, in Death and the Jubilee, the book was filled nicely with an inventive plot. Now in this third outing for Lord Francis Powerscourt, I can happily say that I was most impressed with the whole thing. Wealthy Americans are flocking to an exhibition of Venetian paintings and many are keen to buy. The new firm of De Courcy & Piper, art dealers can deliver the goods—even a genuine Raphael—and are raking in the money. But suddenly an up-and-coming art critic is found garrotted in his flat, and Powerscourt is called in to investigate. What he uncovers more than fills this novel: art forgery, strange goings-on in a remote and crumbling Mansion in Norfolk, and vendettas in Corsica, to name a few of the more spectacular facets of this most inventive plot.

       Firstly, I once again congratulate the author on writing a Victorian whodunit that does not feature Jack The Ripper, brothels, hospitals or feminism (or all four…). In his last novel he managed to make the notoriously dull subject (to most people) of banking and finance exciting, and in this one he does the same with the art world, although that is admittedly easier to interest readers in. Once again, this is still a very plot-driven book with the character of Powerscourt still needing a bit of fleshing out and a few interesting personality traits to make him come to life. But whodunits are generally more dependent upon their plots and as they go, this one is a humdinger, spiced with humor, atmosphere and detail. Perhaps it is the humor I enjoyed the most? The wonderfully audacious scams of De Courcy and Piper certainly make this book most memorable, as humor is not a feature of many crime novels, but here it is used to great effect. Or maybe the thrilling court scene at the end of the book where the two attorneys battle it out was the tops. The plot fairly bursts out of this novel of just over 300 pages and comes very highly recommended. We are also given a glimpse of what the next novel is going to be about, and it promises to be a good one too.

Other reviews in this series

Death & The Jubilee, No 2
Death of an Old Master
, No 3
Death of a Chancellor, No 4
Death Called To The Bar, No 5
Death on the Nevskii Prospekt, No 6
Death on the Holy Mountain, No 7
Death of a Pilgrim,
No 8
Death of a Wine Merchant
, No 9
Death in a Scarlet Coat, No 10 [review 1] [review 2]
Death at the Jesus Hospital, No 11 [review 1] [review 2]