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Mask of the Verdoy: A George Harley Mystery

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“It feels as though the reader is actually walking the cobbled streets and rubbing shoulders with the Londoners of the period … The plot moves with unremitting pace and it is a great tribute to Mr Lecomber that he manages to keep up both the tempo and the suspense until the very last page. 5 STARS – Highly recommended!” – (BEST SELLING CRIME THRILLERS)

“The smoky and smoggy atmosphere of 1930s London is captured beautifully … The dramatic finale is magnificently melodramatic, and ends the book – an excellent debut – in fine style.” (Crime Fiction Lover)

“MASK OF THE VERDOY is an enthralling tale of murder and manipulation that’ll place you in 1930’s London.” – (CRIME THRILLER HOUND)

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.

To discover more about George Harley visit: www.georgeharley.com

460 pages, Paperback

First published October 9, 2014

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About the author

Phil Lecomber

1 book6 followers
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 …

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5 stars
35 (54%)
4 stars
19 (29%)
3 stars
8 (12%)
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2 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
Profile Image for T.M. Tucker.
Author 5 books7 followers
October 18, 2014
What a great first novel this is. The setting is unique in detective fiction - Britain in the early 1930s, before the threat of Fascism has reached its crescendo. Set almost exclusively in London, Lecomber paints a broad canvas around the social, political and cultural upheavals of the time.

The characters are brilliantly rich and varied; from rent boys to gangsters, law enforcers to politicians, honest working people to corrupt aristocrats, you can feel the period come alive in vivid detail.

At the centre of the story is a superb new protagonist in fiction, George Harley, an embittered veteran of the first World War now working as a private detective. As the novel progresses we learn more about George’s motivations, his brilliant mind, quirky methods, and the horrific incident from his past that haunts him. The plot keeps you hungry for more throughout and picks up pace superbly as it races towards its breathless conclusion.

This is a must-read for fans of detective mysteries and anyone who enjoys period fiction of the highest calibre. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
December 20, 2014
Historical fiction is kind of notorious for being boring, but I was pleasantly surprised with how interesting this book was throughout - even though it's definitely a longer book. As someone who generally enjoys a slightly darker story, I thought this did a really good job of combining the aspects of the London underworld with a dry humor. I enjoyed how overall witty and intelligent Harley was through the entire book, and I liked the relationship between him and his by-the-book partner. I'm always a fan of a story when it shows that the bad guys aren't always the person you'd expect. It showed the good and bad in all people, regardless of which side of the poverty line they fell.

I highly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who's looking for a book they can really dig into. It's not an afternoon read, but it's definitely worth the time.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted along with my video review on Word Menagerie.
Profile Image for Babus Ahmed.
792 reviews44 followers
January 14, 2015
Private Investigator George Harley, rescues a rent boy from a beating only later to find him murdered in Harley's spare room. The DI on the case is only too happy to call it a suicide but Harley knows this isn't the case. With his encyclopedic knowledge and his useful connections Harley is able to see that this killing is linked to others and is part of a much bigger conspiracy.

An absolutely mesmerising read set in 1930s London, post WWI, the language, setting and characters really bringing the period to life. Harley is a larger than life charming character whom I grew very attached to whilst reading this whodunit. December doesn't skimp on anything: suspense, mystery political intrigue and gruesome murders, with a cast of awesome characters.

A thriller to be savoured and enjoyed, a definite must-read.
Profile Image for Tracey Lampley.
Author 4 books11 followers
February 23, 2015
The author amazed me with the amount of research employed. The characterization, plot and setting were spot on. The entire concept was brilliant! I rate this book a four-star read.
Profile Image for The Book Eaters.
73 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2015
The original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk

London in the grip of the dark valley of the 1930s is the setting for Phil Lecomber’s debut novel, Mask of the Verdoy. Deep in the murk and smog of the seedier side of London, George Harley, WWI veteran and private detective, encounters a young rent boy on the wrong end of a vicious beating. He rescues him, shelters him and ultimately vows to find his killer when the boy is murdered in George’s home. His investigations soon lead him to uncover corruption in the Metropolitan Police, scandal in the upper classes and a potential Fascist coup… no, this is not an ordinary murder mystery!

It was with some trepidation that I began this book; described as a crime thriller/ historical fiction, this book had the power to either delight or enrage me. As those who know me can attest, my view is that if you’re going to describe a novel as historical fiction, it had better be well researched and accurate!

And I need not have worried… Mask of the Verdoy is rich in accurate and atmospheric detail. A complex plot and fully realised characters, some of whom are clearly inspired by real-life politicians, join intense storytelling to create a very enjoyable read.

George Harley is an engaging protagonist; complex and full of real emotions and flaws, he has a very distinct voice and was very believable. The secondary characters were just as diverse and rich, enhancing the story with their inclusion- even those with a passing mention.

Much is made in other reviews of Lecomber’s decision to include dialogue formed of meticulously researched historical slang. This was actually quite off putting to start with and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue the book, particularly when combined with the very detailed descriptions of the scenes. However, before I could consciously make the decision to stop I was suddenly engrossed and lost in the pages!
I read an interview online with the author and when asked about this and the London-centric plot, he replied “I understand there’s a gamble there – especially with the use of slang – but I’d like to think that once you’re past chapter two the plot will have caught you in its grasp, and there’ll be no turning back.”
I wholeheartedly agree with him here. Get through the first chapter and you will be hooked.

Mask of the Verdoy is a long book, and although mostly fast paced and engrossing, towards the last third of the book I did feel that the plot dragged slightly. This was due in part to the multiple threads to the story, one of which I felt was a touch superfluous- although it was a well written and interesting sub-plot, I don’t think it added much to the overall story.

Despite these minor issues, I did thoroughly enjoy this novel. It is supposed to be the first in a series and I do think I will read any sequels that will be published.

3 and a half bites

NB- I received an ARC from the author. All opinions in this review are honest and my own.
1 review
October 17, 2014
I am not a great fan of crime thrillers or historical fiction but this novel, which combines the two, was a riveting and hugely enjoyable read. Recommended by a friend, I was convinced I’d dislike it, but quickly found myself utterly absorbed by the story, characters and 1930’s London landscape.
Lecomber eloquently evokes a 30’s London bursting with life; you can almost smell the stench of the backstreets as he quickly sweeps you into London’s dark and sinister underbelly where you meet a cast of brilliantly drawn characters. Whores and hoodlums rent boys and gangsters rub shoulders with self-absorbed aristocrats, corrupt politicians and bent coppers. At the helm is George Harley –an enormously likeable private detective and the perfect reader’s companion in this fast –paced and engaging story.
As I said, I have never been a huge fan of historical fiction; too often too much history and historical detail is spoon-fed to the reader and ends up overwhelming the story itself. Lecomber has a different approach, delivering history more by osmosis; drip feeding the reader with fascinating, well researched details that contribute to a rich and vivid sense of both time and place. His use of authentic slang adds a further dimension to this realism.
I particularly liked the clear parallels drawn between the social and political climate of today’s Britain and the bleak post war Britain portrayed in the book. Soup kitchens, mass unemployment, terrorist bombings and class divisions; along with the far right’s rise in popularity seem all too frighteningly familiar.
A thoroughly enjoyable book-thought-provoking and entertaining-I honestly could not put it down.
88 reviews1 follower
December 17, 2014
George Harley, like all good fictional detectives, is a flawed character. As a WWI veteran he is still haunted by his experiences as well as the brutal but mysterious death of his fiancé. The large chip on his shoulder against the aristocracy and moneyed classes often colours his vision, but he’s unable to see that he no longer fits happily in his east end world having inherited his well-travelled uncle’s house, money and an extensive library, often accused of being too well read and having ideas above his station.

But ultimately George Harley is a likeable character – hard working, loyal and with a deep sense of duty to find the truth.

Lecomber’s first novel is set in 1930’s London and there’s no doubt it’s well researched, giving the reader the background on the rise of fascism in England at the time – not something we tended to learn about in our history lessons at school. It’s enlightening and interesting.

George Harley’s first mystery is a well-paced thriller with plenty to keep the reader hooked. This is the first of a five book series; there’s no doubt that I will be coming back for more.
1 review
January 7, 2015
The Mask of Verdoy is first and foremost a page-turner. It sits comfortably in the thriller/mystery/detective genre - something to take on holiday or read in bed to displace the stresses of the day - but it adds a nice twist of historical authenticity.

The novel is set in London in the nineteen thirties, a time of desperate poverty and ostentatious affluence. Pea-soupers, working class camaraderie, and the casual violence of London's underworld all make an appearance as the effects of the Great War followed by the Great Depression push many to turn away from mainstream politics and look for more extreme solutions to the countries problems – with all the echoes of that for our modern times.

The main protagonist is George Harley, a Philip Marlow character of humble origins trying to stick to his personal values as he gets swept up in the great events of the time, but there are other well drawn characters, and flashes of humour without every slipping into slapstick.

There must have been a lot of research to build such a convincing milieu so I am sure we will hear a lot more of George Harley – I will certainly be reading the next one.
Profile Image for Maggie Thom.
Author 18 books478 followers
January 8, 2015
I loved this mystery that takes you back to the time of the early 30's in Britain. It has that old-fashioned intrigue, who-dunnit feel to it. There are a lot of characters in this story but they are all well developed, even the secondary characters. The setting was so real I felt like I was there in George's old house, on the streets with the street lamps, the old theater... The language fascinated me - they truly had a way with words, there is so much color to their language. Very well done. This story starts as a simple murder but soon grows into something so much more - political and international. People are conspiring for change and will use any means to make that happen. It's a deep, old-fashioned mystery that will keep you reading to see if George's less than desirable connections, his sleuthing and his wits will not only solve this mystery but keep him out of jail and alive. It is a convoluted who-dunnit, with some interesting twist that is well worth reading. I definitely recommend it. Very well written Mr. Lecomber.
Profile Image for Librarian Judith.
79 reviews3 followers
January 30, 2015
At The Library, we love historical fiction and we love a good mystery, and in The Mask of the Verdoy we have them both. What an excellent start of a series.

The characters are all three-dimensional-- there are no stock characters that are there just to serve one purpose. They are real-- with a mixture of good points and bad traits. There's a large cast to be sure-- but the main character is George Harley, private detective who has an interesting backstory that the author skillfully reveals as the reader needs to know the information.

The novel begins in the 1930s. World War I is over and World War II has not yet begun. There's a definite change in the political scene in England and Mr. Lecomber gives us a clear overview of what was going on in the darker underside of England during this time.

The mystery itself is top-rate. The story pulled this reader in and didn't let go until the last page.

Good job, Mr. Lecomber-- I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
24 reviews
October 11, 2020
Not for everyone

Was this a good book yes, but it it slow going. You have to get used to the old English being used which to slow down reader. The other issue I had was the author letting the characters preach for more than a few lines. It tended to make my eyes glaze over. That said, the last quarter of the book was extremely satisfying.

10 reviews
May 23, 2020
Thoroughly enjoyable read

Would recommend,well written and entertaining book. George Harley is my kind of hero, human and flawed but more believable because he is
Profile Image for Briar's Reviews.
1,825 reviews506 followers
February 7, 2016
Mask of Verdoy by Phil Lecomber was a great mystery read for those wanting some historical fiction in their lives.

I was not the biggest fan of this book, but I will admit it was written exceptionally well. Personally, I found this book to be very slow. The plot was written incredibly, but it moved to slow for me. I enjoy a fast paced novel that keeps me hooked at every word, and this book did not. I was forcing myself through each chapter, and I wasn't that entertained due to the pace.

But, that doesn't mean Phil Lecomber didn't write a great book! His book was intelligent and great for anyone who loves a good mystery, minus a fast paced plot. His descriptions were beautiful! I felt like I was in the 1930s reading it.

Sadly, I just didn't like the pace. The book was not for me, even though I love a good mystery.

Overall, it was entertaining but slow.

Three out of five stars.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
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