Book Review: Death on the Riviera by John Bude


Death On The Riviera
John Bude

Title: Death on the Riviera by John Bude
Rating: 4 stars (🌟🌟🌟🌟)
Publisher: British Library Crime Classics

Another great mystery reissue by the British Library Crime Classics.

Detective Inspector Meredith accompanied by Acting-Sergent Freddy Strang are in the Riviera to track down a counterfeiter Tommy "Chalky" Cobbett. 

The police in Nice discovered counterfeit currency popping up with English tourists and it had Chalky's hallmarks. What unfolds for most of the book is a very engaging story surrounding the investigation of the counterfeit ring and trying to uncover the participants as the British and French police work the case. It was wonderful as a procedural and the characters were delightful. There's also a thread of the story of the inhabitants and goings-on at the Villa Paloma, home of Nesta Hdderwick. Nesta is a wealthy widow and living with her are her niece, Dilys, companion Miss Pilligrew and a couple of hangers-on, Paul Latour (self-proclaimed bohemian artist), Tony Shenton and Kitty Linden. There's also Bill Dillon, who initially meets Meredith and Strang at the outset on his way to the Riviera, he too comes to stay at Villa Paloma resulting in a bit of domestic upheaval.

This was a treat to puzzle out with the officers and their questions were my questions and they sometimes fell for red-herrings I did and other times asked the question that hadn't yet occurred to me. I was having so much fun with the counterfeit story that I forgot for a while that there's supposed to be a death/murder because of the title. Well, there's a great buildup to the counterfeit solution and then the death/murder takes place (around the 66% mark). I usually am annoyed by this circumstance but apparently if given another very engaging mystery to solve, I don't mind so much. The death/murder investigation is less intricate a plot but still enjoyable and that takes up the remainder of the book. The only criticism I had with this is that the gears shift so abruptly between the counterfeit ring and the death/murder that there is one thing left hanging. There's one character that is pivotal in the counterfeit ring that the story doesn't account for in the end. Everyone else involved is apprehended but (view spoiler) seems to have absconded and no one mentions pursuit of him again. I actually went back to reread because I thought I'd missed something. I hadn't. It's a weird omission in an otherwise tightly told story.

The characters were great whether I liked them or not and the plot tidy and well-paced. I couldn't have asked for much more in a mystery. I've read Bude's The Cheltenham Square Murder and as there are a few other Inspector Meredith mysteries in the BLCC collection, I look forward to more.

I almost forgot this gave me two new crossword words: pip emma (for evening, afternoon i.e PM) and ack emma (for morning). Coming across this reminded me of Christie's Agatha Christie's "A Murder is Announced" where there are estranged siblings that had only been known as "Pip and Emma" which cause a wry eyebrow raises in the story but I completely didn't get while reading.


Summary: When a counterfeit currency racket comes to light on the French Riviera, Detective Inspector Meredith is sent speeding southwards - out of the London murk to the warmth and glitter of the Mediterranean. Along with Inspector Blampignon - an amiable policeman form Nice - Meredith must trace the whereabouts of Chalky Cobbett, crook and forger.
Soon their interest centres on the Villa Paloma, the residence of Nesta Hedderwick, an eccentric Englishwoman, and her bohemian house guests - among them her niece, an artist, and a playboy. Before long, it becomes evident that more than one of the occupants of the Villa Paloma has something to hide, and the stage is set for murder.

This classic crime novel from 1952 evokes all the sunlit glamour of life on the Riviera, and combines deft plotting with a dash of humour. This is the first edition to have been published in more than sixty years and follows the rediscovery of Bude's long-neglected detective writing by the British Library.

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