A Murder in Mayfair

Robert Barnard, Author Scribner Book Company $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-86445-7
Shortly after accepting a junior ministerial post in the Labor government that came to power in the last British general election, MP Colin Pinnock receives a postcard bearing the stark question: ""Who Do You Think You Are?"" As this literate mystery thriller unfolds, it becomes clear that the author of this cryptic message is less concerned with Colin's getting above himself than with his looking into his origins. Learning that he was adopted causes Colin scarcely a jolt, but it's quite another thing to discover that his real father might have been Lord John Revill, who disappeared in 1962 after apparently murdering his wife. By all reports, Lord John had been having an affair with his children's sexy Australian nanny. At 35, Colin is just the right age to be the offspring of this illicit liaison. Barnard, an eight-time Edgar Award finalist, presents a sympathetic protagonist and a compelling human tale with his customary subtlety and economy. Revelations, each more or less surprising, arrive at regular intervals, while the big questions--what was really going on in the Revill household before the murder and who is sending Colin increasingly serious threats--are fully answered only at the end. The good characters are all thoroughly decent chaps, while at the climax the villain, who is more mad than bad, pulls out a knife, not a gun. This understated British melodrama is as comforting as a nice cuppa. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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