British mystery writer Elizabeth Edmondson wrote two acclaimed Hugo Hawksworth novels, A Man of Some Repute and A Question of Inheritance. She was almost finished the third when she died rather unexpectedly. The fate of the third novel was left somewhat in doubt.
Her son, Anselm Audley, a British fantasy writer and the author of a series of dramatic narrative histories for the Amazon Kindle Single program, ultimately stepped in. He finished the final few chapters, using his mother’s notes. The result is A Matter of Loyalty, and it is a welcome result indeed.
Hawksworth, an agent with the UK’s Special Branch in the mid-1950s, has been assigned to the small town of Selchester. He’s officially a statistician, but everyone in the town knows the institution he works for has something to so with espionage. It is a small town, after all, and everyone knows everyone else’s business.
A scientist involved with a nearby nuclear research program is found dead, shot in the back of the head. The death is rather inconvenient for the authorities (not to mention the scientist), as he was the No. 1 suspect in a leak to the Russians. But if they can find the killer, the case may be wrapped up nicely and forgotten. And they do identify one, but Hawksworth is convinced it’s the wrong man.
Hawksworth’s personal problems play out against the case he’s investigating. He walks with a permanent limp, the result of a shooting in Berlin that ended his military career and led to another. He’s become the guardian of his 13-year-old sister Georgia, and she is quite a handful (and plays a significant role in the story). He’s engaged to a socialite in London, but he’s coming to regret the relationship – she’s determined to maneuver him into a boring government or corporate desk job. And there’s another possible love interest – the lovely Freya Wryton, who lives at Selchester Castle and was the niece of the murdered earl in the first Hawksworth novel.
A Matter of Loyalty is a fast-paced story that bears a close reading – it’s filled with characters and sub-plots and eventually align with the main story but the read had to pay attention.
In a postscript, Audley says this will indeed be the last of the Hawksworth novels, and describes how he came to finish the story. He’s done well by his mother’s legacy, but we’ll miss Hugo, Georgia, Freya, the American earl, and the other characters in Edmondson’s memorable stories.
Photograph by Karen Arnold via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. (The photo is actually of Arundel Castle, similar to but not the actual setting for Selchester Castle.)