RogerBW's Blog

Clubbed to Death, Ruth Dudley Edwards 21 December 2018

1991 mystery, fourth in the Robert Amiss series. Once more, Amiss' friend Pooley sends him into an institution where murder may have taken place, for a bit of unofficial undercover work. This time it's as a waiter at ffeatherstonehaugh's, originally a club for roués that's since become gentrified, then fallen on distressingly moralistic times.

The plot's shape, clearly, is very much the same as that of The English School of Murder, and again we have a population of hateful people – but this time Dudley Edwards has gone to some trouble to make them into actual people behind the stereotypes that they at first seem to embody.

Alas, much of the information that fleshes them out comes quite late in the book, as does the information that solves the mystery: yes, as soon as we learn it the answer is obvious, but until we learn it there's no way of making informed speculation about who might be responsible. This ends up making much of the book feel a bit slow, particularly if the Earl of Rochester is not a fresh discovery to the reader.

Once things do finally get moving and people's true backgrounds come to light, it's all rather more interesting and works very well. And the book couldn't have been much shorter and still have been published as a novel in the early 1990s. It's just a pity that so much of the limited space is effectively wasted on pointing out that class-war stereotypes are outdated and inaccurate: yes, OK, we get it.

I didn't feel particularly enthused by this one, but I gather the next book introduces a solid recurring character. Series recommended by Gus; followed by Matricide at St Martha's.

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Previous in series: The English School of Murder | Series: Robert Amiss | Next in series: Matricide at St Martha's

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