A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia

By Clara Benson.

When Ticky Maltravers drops dead outside Cynthia Pilkington-Soames’ front door, her son, Freddy, a feckless journalist with the Clarion, is forced to move the body and then investigate the incident. It’s not an easy job because all of Maltravers’ acquaintances had good reason to murder him – he was blackmailing them. His man, Weaver, decides to continue his master’s business and gets stabbed in the back.

In spite of his general lack of diligence or competence, Freddy manages to find Maltravers’ collection of incriminating evidence and return the offending items to the victims before also working out who the real killer is, revealing all to the police, and nearly getting stabbed in the process.

Freddy is a likable, personable neutral sort of character, being from his mother’s world, but not closely involved with it. His mother, Cynthia, indifferently leaves it to her son to try and deal with the aftermath of Maltravers’ death while keeping her own vice – gambling – from Freddy’s remotely located father. The mysterious Valentina Sangiacomo and the less mysterious Amelia Drinkwater are both forthright modern girls who will jolly well do as they please in spite of any reservations Freddy might have about their involvement.

The book is very much a collection of comical clichés. Freddy is another Bertie Wooster sort of character (although he lacks a Jeeves to guide him), and his mother and her social circle are all suitably snooty, snobbish and judgemental. However, the obvious elements of the story don’t detract from the entertaining quality of the writing which evokes the style of the age.

Overall, the book is fun, light reading, with Freddy Pilkington-Soames being a mixture of Bertie Wooster (mainly) and Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. We’ll see what happens in coming instalments of the series.