Saturday, October 22, 2022

Book Review: A Gentleman's Murder by Christopher Huang

A Gentleman's Murder by Christopher Huang
Adult historical mystery
July 2018

October, 1924. When the newest member of Eric Peterkin's London club is found stabbed to death in the vault below the club building, Eric throws himself into a quest for the truth. Treading a maze of missing nurses, morphine addiction, and shell shock, Eric soon finds that though the Great War may be over, its shadows still linger; and sometimes, they fester....

I picked this one up because I heard this interview with the author on my favorite podcast, Shedunnit, and what he said about growing up in Singapore as a British Golden Age mystery fan was really interesting. As he discusses in that episode, part of his intention in writing this Eric Peterkin series (I hope it will be a series!) is to put characters who look like him into his favorite genre of books. Eric has a white British father and Chinese immigrant mother, and Huang does a good job of showing how racism affects both Eric's life and that of his sister (as she faces different stereotypes about Asian women and therefore some different dangers than he does as a man), as well as the ways Asian characters are portrayed in the crime novels and films of the time. I love seeing a wider variety of diverse characters in historical fiction, especially when it's done so thoughtfully and deliberately.

The mystery itself here is well-plotted with a good sense of fair play - I was very proud of myself for picking up on certain clues disguised as throwaway bits of dialogue. Huang's descriptions of the world of his characters and the minutiae of their daily lives are a particular strength, as is the way he illustrates the myriad ways World War I changed society in general and individuals in particular, especially in regards to shell shock and the mental health of veterans. That said, my one quibble was with the way addiction was treated - it's generally shown correctly as a disease that here is often a result of the war, either directly (wounded soldiers given morphine) or indirectly (self-medicating because of unaddressed PTSD), but then at certain points it's treated as a vice or moral failing. It's realistic for certain characters to think or talk of it that way, of course, but this odd dichotomy continues in the author's note and I'd have liked it to make clear that this was an incorrect and outdated view.

Overall, though, this is definitely worth a read for Golden Age mystery fans, and I will definitely give Huang's next book a try!

Author's Site | Amazon | Bookshop

No comments:

Post a Comment