A Scandal in Belgravia by Robert Barnard A Scandal in Belgravia by Robert Barnard
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on February 1, 2000 (first published 1991)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
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four-stars

A Scandal In Belgravia is a story of murder; it is also a penetrating analysis of a decaying social class and a society in transition. And it is the personal, deeply moving story of two men, Peter Proctor, recently retired as a senior British cabinet minister, and Timothy Wycliffe, a young aristocrat who was bludgeoned to death more than thirty years ago.

The two had met in the early 1950s as fledgling diplomats in the Foreign Office. Wycliffe, the grandson of a marquess, had little in common with Proctor, the self-made man on his way up. But the elegant, joyful, intensely alive Wycliffe relished all kinds of people, including his very naïve and earnest middle-class colleague.

The friendship was close for a while, gradually becoming more occasional. Even Wycliffe's murder, shocking as it was, caused relatively little impact on his friends and the national press, who were distracted that week by more momentous events in the news.

Only now, over three decades later, does Wycliffe's brutal death become Proctor's obsession. Relieved of his official post after a long and distinguished career, Proctor decides to write his memoirs. But beyond a banal chapter on his youth, nothing will come. Memories of Timothy Wycliffe take over his mind, pushing aside all other thoughts. It is only in probing the past, in tracking down the people who knew Wycliffe, in discovering the shocking truth of his murder, that Peter Proctor will find peace.

I picked A Scandal in Belgravia up at a library book sale. I had never heard of Barnard before, but the title grabbed my eye because of the Sherlock episode. After i read the blurb on the back it sounded like one I’d enjoy and I think it was like 50¢. I have to say I’m really pleased I picked it up.

Peter Proctor, a former politician, is writing his memoirs. Or at least trying to. But his mind keeps going back to the murder of his friend, Timothy Wycliffe, some 30 years ago.

I liked the pace of this mystery. It’s an old murder. The police think they knew who did it and the killer is safely out of the country. There’s no rush; no one’s in danger; there’s nothing to be gained by solving the case aside for peace of mind – and maybe a book that will sell better than his memoirs. Peter can go around talking to people, asking questions, setting people on edge, all in his own time.

Of course, Peter gets to the bottom of the killing and it’s not really shocking but sad. The fact that the murder takes place in the 1950s means we learn a lot about that time in England, politically and culturally. Tim was a gay man at the Foreign Office when homosexuality was illegal, and that contributed both to his fate and how the case was handled at the time.

Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t read anything by Barnard before. I liked the story telling, the plotting of the mystery, and the characters.

About Robert Barnard

Robert Barnard (23 November 1936 – 19 September 2013) was an English crime writer, critic, and lecturer.

Born in Essex, Barnard was educated at the Royal Grammar School in Colchester and at Balliol College in Oxford. His first crime novel, A Little Local Murder, was published in 1976. The novel was written while he was a lecturer at University of Tromsø in Norway. He has gone on to write more than 40 other books and numerous short stories.

Barnard was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2003 by the Crime Writers Association for a lifetime of achievement.

Barnard lived with his wife Louise in Yorkshire.

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