BBC News announcer Simon Sampson used to work as a crime reporter so he’s used to violence. But when he stumbles across a dying woman in a dark alley, Simon finds himself swept up in a tempest of treason, intrigue, and murder. With his friend Florence “Bill” Miles and Scottish Royal retainer Cameron McCreadie at his side, Simon starts to unravel the truth of the woman’s death and its far reaching implications.
When Simon is framed for murder, he’s forced to go on the run with Bill, laying low at a country estate while trying to avoid curious locals. In the midst of this, Simon realizes the King is in danger and he endures betrayal and terrible loss as he struggles to reach his monarch in time. For Simon, this is a case that might change his life or end it.
A Death in Bloomsbury is the first in the Simon Sampson Mysteries series and despite a strong historical presence and a decent writing style, this one didn’t work for me. I found the pacing to be problematic and never really connected to either of the main characters.
A Death in Bloomsbury is set during the years leading up to World War II. Hitler is just beginning to manifest himself as a potential threat and there are the rumblings that something is coming, even if the world doesn’t quite know what. The novel has a well established sense of historical place and time and everything worked from that perspective. The book is set in the 1930s and the flavor of that decade comes through with real clarity. Additionally, the author has done a good job of offering the readers a distinct voice; there’s a cadence and flow to it that matches the personality of the book as a whole.
Unfortunately, I struggled with the main characters. Simon seems pretty bland. I never connected with him and, while I was supposed to be invested in his journey, it was all a bit of a shrug for me. Bill is more dimensional and on some level I appreciated her determination to go her own way in the world. But she also seemed somewhat unrealistic at times and she’s not always likable. The pacing was the other issue. Reading A Death in Bloomsbury was something of a chore because I could never find my groove with the story. There are periods of action and then things slow or stop while we get chunks of info dumping or character exposition. On the whole, it read as somewhat clumsy and not as smooth as it could have been. I got the impression it was supposed to be somewhat noir, but I wasn’t sold on how it was executed.
There will be some readers that love A Death in Bloomsbury because it’s a fairly decent historical mystery. And I’m willing to concede my issues with this book have to do more with me than the book itself, but I just didn’t vibe with the characters and I struggled with the pacing through the entire book. So this may just have to be one you try for yourself and decide if it works or not.