Narrator: David Thorpe
Series: Inspector Brett Nightingale #3
Published by Soundings on December 1, 2019 (first published 1958)
Genres: Vintage Mystery, Christmas
Length: 7 hrs 7 mins
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In a gloomy flat off Islington High Street, Chief Inspector Brett Nightingale and Sergeant Beddoes find an old woman dead. The Princess Olga Karukhin, who fled from Russia at the time of the Revolution, has lived in terror of being discovered ever since.
Olga's grandson, Ivan, appears to have run from the scene, but is later seen returning to the flat as though oblivious to the terrible crime. Taking place between 22nd and 24th December, Nightingale's enquiry takes him across London, culminating in the wrapping of the mystery on Christmas Eve.
Three days before Christmas, Inspector Nightingale is called to the scene of a suspicious death. An elderly woman has been found dead in her bed. It may have been natural cause, but she has been robbed. Nightingale discovers she was a Russian princess who had fled to Britain during the Revolution, bringing with her jewelry and valuable pieces of art. There has been a recent spate of burglaries and Nightingale suspects this is another by the same group. We know from the beginning that the princess’s grandson is probably involved and there’s never really any doubt that it’s connected to the other thefts. The bulk of the book follows Nightingale and his sergeant as they identify and catch the thieves.
While the story takes place around Christmas, it’s not very Christmassy. There are no interrupted celebrations, no warm feelings. There is a bit of present buying, but even that turns out questionable, and traipsing through the snow can be deadly. It’s a tense book, with some moments of definite danger. We follow Nightingale as he searches for clues and questions suspects. The plot moves quickly once it gets rolling. It’s a well-written, clever story with fully-developed characters, a good read for any time of year.
Again, I’m happy that these older mysteries are being re-released. I had never heard of Mary Kelly, although she is definitely worth reading more of. She actually only wrote about 10 novels. Although she lived until 2017, her last book was published in 1974.