A Grave Man by David Roberts

24 November, 2009

I’ve been a big fan of David Roberts since reading Sweet Poison, his first book in his historical mystery series featuring Lord Edward Corinth and Verity Browne. For me, what is fascinating is that Verity Browne is a journalist/war correspondant and a communist. This brings us nicely to the politics which permeates Roberts’ novels. Some people dislike the political thread running through his mysteries, but I like it and have learnt (or re-learnt) quite alot about the Spanish Civil War and the lead up to WWII.

There is a huge range of country house mysteries available to choose from that it is quite refreshing to read something that focusses on the social changes of that period including the politics. I love my country house mysteries as I think a good one delivers emotional, psychological and extremely intricate plots (including a few laughs) and I am the first to reach out and grab one, so one that has a little more kick to it is a welcome addition to the genre.

I think it’s only as I grow older that I have become interested in the sociological and political aspects of history. I was never really interested in WWI and WWII when I was at school. I only wanted to learn about kings and queens. Only now I realise that politics and social structure/change are inherent in everything and permeate history, and am obsessively reading about the interwar years. There is just something about that period that strikes a chord. One of my favourite blogs is A Work in Progress where you can find wonderful reviews and posts on interwar fiction, non-fiction and mysteries, a recent post being about flappers.

As you can probably tell, I love Roberts’ mysteries and I don’t know why I took so long to start reading A Grave Man. Oh, yes I do, it’s been on my TBR pile and I’ve been too busy accumulating more books. So the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge provided a good excuse to pick up this book and read it. This is my third book for the Challenge.

Personally I like to read my series in order so that you get a better understanding of the relationships that have developed as each book progresses. A Grave Man is the sixth book in the series featuring the two sleuths who come from opposite poles of the social spectrum. Edward Corinth is the younger brother of the Duke of Mersham and man about town with a private income. He is in love with Verity Browne who has inherited a private income, is the daughter of a newspaper baron and is a war correspondent in her own right and an ardent card carrying communist. When they first meet, they clash, but they find that when it comes to crime, the two of them together are better at solving mysteries than going solo.

In A Grave Man, they are faced with the murder of a famous archeologist at a funeral in Westminster Abbey. Both Edward and Verity try to investigate the murder as political events slowly start to spiral out of control as the Nazis gain power in Europe. Edward’s friendship with Churchill and Verity’s disdain for the man lead to a fissure in their relationship which had just started to bloom. And faced with the ugly realisation that some of their friends are involved in research in eugenics which may or may not be funded by the Nazis, Edward and Verity are in a race against time to unravel the murderer before he strikes again while trying to salvage their friendship.

This novel is set in 1937 as the threat of another war looms over Europe. Times are dark and the frivolous joviality of the 1920s has begun to dissipate. Both Lord Edward Corinth and Verity Browne are likeable and feisty characters, although Verity sometimes drives me mad as much as she does Edward. Roberts introduces several historical figures in his novel including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as well as Churchill who all provide an interesting background to the story and colour the novel well. I particularly liked the way that he doesn’t wrap up or finish the novel neatly, leaving you wanting to read the next book.

I really enjoyed A Grave Man, and I urge you to try David Roberts’ series beginning with Sweet Poison. You get a dash of history, mystery and the bohemian life! Ta da! (I know, I know, I just can’t help myself.) There are only ten books in the series and the final volume, Sweet Sorrow, was published this year.

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2 Responses to “A Grave Man by David Roberts”

  1. Danielle Says:

    Thanks for the very kind mention and the heads up on this series as I had not heard of it before. I also like novels/mysteries which have a bit of history thrown in as well. It’s only recently that I’ve read about the Spanish Civil War, so I’m on the look out for books set in Spain now, too. Have you read any of Clare Langley Hawthorne’s mysteries? They feature a suffragette. I’ll be looking for the first title in this series now, too.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      No problem. Your blog is an inspiration. I haven’t read Clare Langley Hawthorne’s books yet but they have been on my wishlist for a while. I’m saving them as a treat! There is also another series featuring a suffragette called Sister Beneath the Sheet which I have but haven’t read yet. I think I may do so for the Women Unbound Challenge.


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