The second of the Hampstead Murders series finds the team of detectives dealing with corpses at two iconic Hampstead locations. Though the killings are separated by several decades Superintendent Collison is convinced there is a connection between them, and in trying to prove it finds himself caught up in the shadowy world of Special Branch and a cold war drama worthy of John Le Carre.
When Agatha Christie emerges as a key figure in their enquiries the team must find ways to investigate her life in Hampstead, and scramble to identify and secure vital evidence before it is destroyed.
Praised by fellow authors, the Hampstead Murders offer a truly different kind of crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet at the same time harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, they have been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above the series hovers Hampstead, a magical village on a hill hauntingly evoked, the elegance of an earlier time, and the elegiac memory of the Queen of Crime herself.
After thoroughly enjoying Death In Profile, volume one in the Hampstead Murders, I eagerly anticipated the second book Miss Christie Regrets. It was a pleasure to return to the characters in Hampstead’s Serious Crime Time and the pace and tone of Fraser-Sampson’s prose.
Fraser-Sampson has a way of writing that transports you to another era while simultaneously keeping you within the present day. The mix of old-world charm and modern-day workplace political issues makes for a great combination and adds a unique quality not seen in current crime fiction.
When bodies are found at two of Hampstead’s iconic buildings Detective Simon Collison suspects that they are connected despite the deaths being decades apart. The discovery that Agatha Christie may somehow be involved results in a present-day tale with an historical slant.
With murders taking place within Hampstead’s Burgh House and Isokon Building I found myself intrigued about these two settings as well as the connection with Agatha Christie. I found myself resorting to Google to find out more and it became clear that Fraser-Sampson has undertaken careful research in order to be historically accurate. As a fan of historical fiction, I love that Fraser-Sampson has managed to seamlessly combine historical fact with detective fiction. I found myself totally drawn into the story, the characters and their world.
What I really love about these books is the return to the good old-fashioned detective story with the emphasis being on the process of eliminating suspects and evidence finding. Don’t take me wrong by my use of the phrase ‘old-fashioned’ as I mean this in a complimentary way. You get right into the nitty-gritty of the police work, and are constantly trying to piece the evidence together to try and work out who did it. With the addition of tongue-in-cheek moments when Fraser-Sampson refers to detective fiction as being unrealistic, Miss Christie Regrets is both charming and amusing.
Does it work as a standalone novel? Yes it does, however I feel the reader would benefit from reading the first volume, Death In Profile, to have gained knowledge of the characters’ history. I enjoyed spending time with the familiar characters and continue to be interested in how their stories will progress. Fraser-Sampson has given just enough information about Tom Allen to make him a character I want to know more about, and the relationship between Bob Metcalfe, Karen Willis and Peter Collins is a thread in which I am dying to know what the outcome will be. Fraser-Sampson has created interesting characters that easily sustain a series of books.
It’s fair to say that I have developed a real affection for this series and Miss Christie Regrets is a great follow-up to the first. I found it both interesting, charming and, strangely, comforting. If you want a change from your usual crime novel definitely check out the Hampstead Murders. It appeals greatly to my love of the classics and modern crime fiction adding a welcome change within my reading. While I enjoyed the first in the series I have to say I enjoyed Miss Christie Regrets even more, and I look forward to seeing where Fraser-Sampson takes us next.
A huge thank you to Guy Fraser-Sampson and Urbane Publications for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
Published on 12 January 2017 by Urbane Publications.