Lionel Davidson – The Chelsea Murders (1978)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Knife
Date Finished: February 25, 2017
TBR #15
Follow the Clues step #15: from London to London neighborhood (Chelsea).

A series of murders occur in the Chelsea district of London. The police begin investigating them as connected, and they soon seem to be as a series of poems begin arriving just prior to each murder. The poet’s initials match the initials of the murder victims. Somehow, and perhaps I missed this, the police figure out that the murderer must be one of three people working on a independent film being made in the area. Also investigating is a female reporter for the Chelsea weekly newspaper, who is also stringing from the London dailies.

Some people seem to love this mystery, but I struggled with it, especially the first half. It did win an award in 1978, but I think that says more about 1978’s competition than it does about this novel. Davidson started many chapters mid conversation, so that I had difficulty in figuring out who was who. One reviewer on LibraryThing described it well in stating that the principles get together and speak enigmatically for several chapters. Another has described it as clever, sharp, and witty, and I would say it is not any of those things. They are not terribly sympathetic characters, and I did have trouble remembering which was Steve and which was Frank until the solution was revealed. Somewhat frustratingly, the first three murders turn out not to be related to the poetry-series ones, and are not solved. Perhaps that is what makes this a “send up” of the classic English murder mystery, but I just think it makes this a mess.



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