Monday, September 12, 2011
The Quality of Mercy: Review
The story begins in Vienna just before Hitler and his gang seize Austria. Verity is a journalist and has been in Vienna trying to report on the state of the country as the Nazis advance. As a well-known anti-Fascist and Communist, she is one of the first to be deported when Hitler takes over. Before her enforced departure she arranges for a young Jew, Georg Dreiser, to escape certain death and flee to England. But it is in England, where he least expects it, that danger and sudden death catch up with him.
Corinth has an encounter with death as well. He is at the home of Lord Louis Mountbatten to meet his friend the Maharaja of Batiala. Edward's nephew Frank stumbles upon the corpse of Peter Gray, a painter of some repute. The police are satisfied that he died of natural causes but his niece, Vera, has reason to believe this is not the case. So, between them, Edward and Verity set about the investigation of two murders. Overshadowing the mysteries is the ever-present threat of war. And the two sleuths also find a way to do their part in saving those that they can from the clutches of the Nazis in Austria.
The Quality of Mercy (like the previous six books in the Lord Corinth and Verity Browne series) is a very nice historical recreation of the Golden Age mysteries I love so well. Roberts has done his research and serves up a terrific offering of the class-conscious England of the 1930s. It is also obvious that he knows his Dorothy L Sayers. There are so many parallels between his books and the Lord Peter Wimsey books (particularly the four with Harriet Vane) that I have considered doing a more in-depth post on the two series. [Keep your eyes peeled--it may be in the works.] I can find no fault with his 1930s window dressing or his characterization. And he manages to weave actual historical figures into the narrative quite seamlessly. The one point that is a bit lacking is the mystery itself. It's a decent enough story, but the grand finale falls a bit short. And in one respect was down-right disappointing.
But, overall, a lovely bit of historical story-telling. Quite enjoyable and if I hadn't had to work I would have read it straight through. Three and a half stars.