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Death of a Chancellor

By David Dickinson

    At the end of Death of an Old Master (also reviewed on this site), I remember saying that I looked forward to book four of this lively series—and here it is.

    Lord Francis Powerscourt was just off to fight the Boer War, and a whodunit set during this time would be imaginative and thrilling indeed. But such was not to be, and I was disappointed initially at what sounded like a rather traditional tale about murder in a quiet West Country cathedral city. However, with the aforementioned fourth book this series eventually takes wing and is something of a treat.

    Compton Cathedral is about to celebrate its thousandth year anniversary Easter 1901, as the nation awaits the crowning of Edward VII. But the chancellor has died suddenly, and his sister suspects foul play and hires the best, Lord Powerscourt. Soon he has a huge task on his hands, but he risks being labeled a madman if he confides his suspicions as to what is going on in Compton.

    This story really is a lot of fun, and although I would have dearly loved to read that Boer War whodunit (which I wistfully envisage as John Buchan with murders) this more than passed the time. Dickinson has got into his stride with this series after a tentative beginning and has developed his own rather tongue-in-cheek style that is more than a crime novel. Agatha Christie called this sort of book an “extravaganza” and the name fits the bill. To say why would totally spoil the story, which is enjoyably plot-driven with a good period ambience. The character of Powerscourt still fails to engage the emotions, but I tend to think of him as a coathanger on which to hang a good tale. Plot and imagination notwithstanding, I still think that it is the humor I enjoyed the most, something which is lacking in too many crime novels, but here it is used to good effect. Just sit back and enjoy this one.

Other reviews in this series

Death & The Jubilee, No 2
Death of an Old Master
, No 3
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
Death of a Chancellor, No
Death Called To The Bar, No
Death in a Scarlet Coat, No 10 [review 1] [review 2]
Death at the Jesus Hospital, No 11

The Book

Constable & Robinson
27 January 2005
Historical Crime [1901 London and the West Country, UK]
More at US || UK

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005