Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Chelsea Mansions by Barry Maitland
Christine Cremen - Sydney Morning Herald - December 11, 2011
Author Barry Maitland. Photo: Peter Stoop
CHELSEA MANSIONS Barry Maitland Allen & Unwin, A$24.99
Back in the golden age of crime fiction, it was all location, location, location. From the 1920s to the 1950s, mysteries were published with floor plans of houses and even maps of whole villages to help readers work out who the murderer might be. Since the 1960s, writers haven't been quite as focused on where a crime takes place but when they are, their books can stand out from the rest. This is the case with former professor of architecture Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla mysteries, an award-winning series of British police procedurals set in various well-realised locations. In these books, Maitland (who lives in Australia but has set all but one of his novels overseas) manages to accomplish what many other authors who make a feature of place can only aspire to - his setting becomes one of the characters.
Maitland's new book, Chelsea Mansions, begins promisingly. Two American tourists visiting London are walking back to their hotel one evening after attending the Chelsea Flower Show. Suddenly, from out of the crowd, someone pushes the man aside, grabs the woman and hurls her into the traffic, right in front of an oncoming bus. This bizarre and horrifying murder has its roots in a crime committed many decades before and, with her boss, Chief Inspector David Brock, taken seriously ill soon after the investigation begins, Inspector Kathy Kolla struggles to solve one of the most difficult cases she has ever faced.