Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mask of the Verdoy Review Tour

LONDON, 1932 … a city held tight in the grip of the Great Depression. GEORGE HARLEY’S London. The West End rotten with petty crime and prostitution; anarchists blowing up trams; fascists marching on the East End.

And then, one smoggy night …

The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.

Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.

God save the King! eh, George?

THE 1930s … thinking debutantes, Bright Young Things and P. G. Wodehouse? Think again—more like fascists, psychopaths, and kings of the underworld. GEORGE HARLEY’S London is a city of crime and corruption … of murder most foul, and smiling, damned villains.

In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.

With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.

But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.

Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.

STILL CLUTCHING THE distraught Gladys close to him the Italian moved forwards and fired up at the cage, the round ricocheting off the bars, briefly illuminating the gloom with a spray of sparks. Harley hunkered down, swore, and redoubled his efforts, finally forcing the catch and dropping through the small opening just as another bullet passed inches from his head.
The cage slewed as he dropped inside, the box of dynamite shifting a little to the left.
Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness he could quite plainly make out the length of two-core cable running through a drilled hole in the side of the box of explosives and out through the cage, snaking away into the gloom. He turned to peer through the bars—and was dismayed to see the second hand of the oversized clock ticking past the three minute mark.
He quickly lay down and started to crawl towards the bomb, the cage listing dangerously to and fro.
Girardi now fired again; this time the bullet made it through the bars to clatter terrifyingly around the inside of the cage.
‘Smith! You still there?’ shouted Harley, feeling in his jacket for his penknife.
‘You betcha, guv!’ came a voice from the gloom.
‘Shine a spotlight down there on that cowson, would yer? Try and dazzle him for me. Make it sharpish, now! We’ve only got seconds before this bloody thing goes up.’

Phil was also interviewed by Crime Fiction Lovers, which you can read here.

My Review:
4.5 stars

Such a great book, where do I start? An entertaining look into the 1930s, wonderful characters, and a dynamic and engaging storyline. I'm not usually a historical fan, but the history and time period is woven into the story so well, that I was drawn in and interested instead of feeling like I was sitting through a boring history class. I got to see a side of London that you rarely hear about nowadays, and I was absolutely hooked. 

As for the characters; simply amazing. They were fleshed out, well written, and I found myself thinking of them as real people who I might have met walking down a London street in the 30s. The plot was also phenomenal. An engaging thriller, with turns I didn't see coming and an interesting end, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I highly recommend giving Mask of the Verdoy a read, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

December 3: Word Menagerie
December 10: Straight from the Library
December 17: Our Families Adventure

Author Bio and Links:
Phil Lecomber was born in 1965 in Slade Green, on the outskirts of South East London—just a few hundred yards from the muddy swirl of the Thames.

Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.

All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.

Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.

So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …

Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.

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Buy Links:
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  1. What a great review! Can't wait to get my hands on this!

  2. Thank you I enjoyed the excerpt and your review

  3. Awesome excerpt - this sounds like a really interesting read!

  4. Interesting sounding story! I haven't read a good msyery in a while.i think i will read this one.

  5. Much suspense and action, I'm loving the sound of it so far from this excerpt! ;D

  6. Great book and giveaway; I like the cover. ;)

  7. I love the excerpt very interesting.