Detective Superintendent Simon Collison of Scotland Yard is a bit at loose ends. He’s been lauded by the media for solving his first case (although it was a very near thing), the Yard’s higher-ups want to fast-track him, and he’s not currently assigned to a police unit or station. And all Collison wants to do is gain experience in detective work.
He’s allowed to help at the Hampstead Police Station, and “help” means to wait while the detectives there deal with a recent murder of Peter Howse, who lived in a flat above an art gallery and exhibition house, which used to belong to his family. Someone has struck Howse as he was seated at his desk. Suspects abound, and the police soon discover there are almost too many suspects with too many motives.
Collison doesn’t stay idle for long. A skeleton is found in a suitcase, hidden behind a brick basement wall of the Isokon building. A block of apartments built in the 1930s (and actually a real place)., the building’s most famous tenants were the Soviet agent who recruited the “Cambridge Five” and Agatha Christie. A connection between the skeleton and the murder is made – Peter Howse had been assembling research on the Isokon building for an exhibition shortly to begin. The two cases are consolidated, and Collison takes charge.
Fraser-Sampson is perhaps better known as an investment funds manager and business consultant. He’s a member of the teaching staff of the Cass Business School in London, an investment columnist, and the author of four books on finance and investment. In the history and fiction areas, he’s written a history of the Plantagenets, a review of cricket from 1967 to 1977 when the color barriers where breaking down, two successor novels to Mapp and Lucia novels of E.F. Benson, and now this Hampstead Murder series.
The story artfully blends the historic of a notable building and the account of the old Soviet spies, swirled together with a contemporary mystery. And Miss Christie posthumously plays a critical role in the investigation.
Miss Christie Regrets, like its predecessor Death in Profile, tells a fast-paced, interesting story and pays tribute to one of the great mystery writers (in the first book, it was Dorothy Sayers and her detective Lord Peter Wimsey). Kudos to Mr. Fraser-Sampson for a second mystery every bit as good as the first.
Top photograph of the Isokon Building via Wikimedia. Used with permission.