First Sentence: “Hello? Detective John Redfyre, Cambridge CID here.”
It’s 1923, the age of the women’s suffrage movement, and DI John Redfyre has been invited by his aunt to a Christmas concert. It is a bit scandalous in that the featured trumpeter is a lovely young woman, Juno Proudfoot. Is someone so upset they would try to kill her through a triggered fall down stone steps? When the next attempt on another woman succeeds it’s up to Redfrye to uncover both the motive and the killer.
Cleverly’s voice perfectly reflects that of the 1920s and the Golden Age of mystery writers—“A threepenny bus-ride or a two-bob taxi fare and she could have been with him in person, pouring out her problems while he poured out a London Gin and added a slug of Rose’s Lime Juice.”
Redfrye and his Aunt Henrietta, through whom we learn about his background, boyhood, and the incident which gave him his resolve, are delightful characters. The introduction of Eadwig Stretton, creates a nice plot twist. Sargent Thoday is interesting and a character of whom one should like to see more.
Cleverly’s descriptions are a delight to read—“They looked up silently at the roof-tops of the colleges. Elegantly frosted by a slight fall of snow, a Gustave Doré landscape of pinnacles, turrets, domes, and cornices unfolded above them, outlined against the dark sky by a three-parts-rounded, hunchbacked moon.” She uses the story of Jezebel to illustrate the subjection of women through time and as a way of making the point of women fighting against the total control of men over the lives of women such as that it took only the signatures of two men to commit a woman to an asylum.
There are very good red herrings. Suspects are presented and dismissed. Or are they? With one murder, we have an association, but no apparent motive. It is interesting reading a book set during a time when forensics existed but were still rather rudimentary.
Unfortunately, the story does get a bit lost in the details of the time period and the ending felt rushed. This is not Cleverly’s best book, but one hopes for better in the future.
“The Fall of Angels” is a delightful homage to the Golden Age, with a very relevant theme.
THE FALL OF ANGELS (Hist Mys-DI John Redfyre-Cambridge, England-1923) - Good
Cleverly, Barbara – 1st of seriesSoho Crime, May 2018