The ladies of Clerkenwell Central Hall are none too pleased at having their Temperance meetings disrupted by the rowdy Communists next door, but for Miss Olive Stapleton in particular, the uneasy coexistence proves fatal when she is found stabbed through the heart with a paper-knife. Enter Freddy Pilkington-Soames, who’s been recruited by British Intelligence to investigate a suspected Communist plot to stir up a general strike. Freddy thinks there’s more to Miss Stapleton’s death than meets the eye, but as he delves more deeply into the mystery it only becomes more puzzling. What is the connection between the murder and the coded newspaper advertisements? Is a Welsh firebrand politician really as harmless as he seems? And what does the beautiful wife of an Austrian revolutionary philosopher want from him? It all points to one thing: danger ahead. But time is running out, and Freddy must act fast to stop the conspirators, or risk becoming the unwitting pawn in a deadly game that threatens to bring the country to its knees.
Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures - traditional English whodunits in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn't do any of those things.
If you want to be the first to hear about new releases, and to receive a free, exclusive short story, sign up to her mailing list at clarabenson.com/newsletter.
A Case of Conspiracy in Clerkenwell is the 3rd book in the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series by Clara Benson. The story is set in the late 1920s or early 1930s in London. Freddy is a sort of ne'er do well, upper-class Englishman, who tries to work as a newspaper reporter. He was first introduced to readers in Benson's Angela Marchmont series.
Clerkenwell Central Hall is the meeting place of two disparate organization on the same evening - the Young Women's Abstinence Association and the East London Communist Alliance. Freddy has been asked by Henry Jameson, of British Intelligence (who we previously met in an Angela Marchmont book,) to help watch Freddy's friend, St. John Bagshawe. St. John is a member of the Communists and has started a Communist newspaper. Freddy attends a meeting of the Communists and runs into his friend, Mildred Starkweather, who is a member of the Temperance organization. Mildred introduces him to some of the other members, including Miss Stapleton, who is the very militant leader of the Temperance group. The morning after the meeting, Miss Stapleton is found murdered in the meeting hall. Freddy is determined to find Miss Stapleton's murderer and to foil an unknown threat from the Communist organization leaders.
Benson has tried to write her books in the style of a Golden Age novel, and I believe she succeeds admirably. She doesn't feel the need to point out things that someone who was writing in that period would point out, but that many historical novel writers feel compelled to mention. For instance, she doesn't mention types of clothing or hats or cars or those types of things that are found so often in the descriptions of many historical books, but that a writer in that age might not necessarily mention. The story moves along very well; there is not a lot of extra detail to detract from the main plot. She gives enough clues that one might figure out the solution to the mystery, but they are not obvious clues. As in many Golden Age mysteries, the author does not spend much time fleshing out the major characters, but we get to know them well enough to be interested. The primary purpose of books like this is the fun of "whodunit" not getting into the characters' heads.
Freddy reminds me a little of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey or Margery Allingham's Albert Campion, except that Freddy is perhaps not quite as intelligent - or perhaps he hides his intelligence a little better. He seems to bumble along, sometimes getting into trouble, but then is somehow intelligent enough to get himself and others out of a bad situation. I enjoy Freddy - I enjoyed his character in the Angela Marchmont series, and I'm glad he has his own series now. He is fun to read about and I find myself rooting for him.
The one thing that bothered me a little about the plot was how willing the Intelligence service was to trust Freddy, and how much information was shared with him. That seemed a little unbelievable to me, but perhaps since it is still years before WWII, security was not as tight as it was later to become. It was mentioned that Intelligence also had a person on the inside of the Communist organization, and I was a bit amazed by how much information they still needed Freddy to get. However, closer to the end of the book, this point was wrapped up to my satisfaction.
Although this is part of a series, it could easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone.
If you enjoy mysteries in the style of the Golden Age, I think you will enjoy this book.
Always enjoy an adventure with Freddy - this time, our favorite reporter is investigating a Communist plot to stir up labor trouble.
As the book opens, Freddy runs into a rather oafish old school chum at a demonstration. St. John was involved in insurrection activities at one time, but has now settled into relatively harmless work putting out an ineffective Communist rag, hardly circulating, rarely read. British Intelligence agents report Freddy, and he quickly finds himself talking to Henry Jameson (see Angela Marchmont book, The Incident at Fives Castle) about keeping an eye on St. John, and helping British Intelligence discover what “big thing” the Communists are planning - strike? Riots?
So, Freddy starts hanging around the Clerkenwell hall where the Communist group meets - just so happens, they share the hall with a Temperance Group, which gives us several amusing characters and vignettes as the two groups interact. Freddy, of course, knows people in both groups, as the upper classes enjoyed dabbling in social causes (and Communism, oddly enough).
There’s a murder of an old battle axe of the Temperance leadership who suspected the Communists were “up to” something- she hadn’t kept her mouth shut about it, so Freddy must try and discover what she knew.
As usual, Freddy puts on his “affable ass” face, a la Albert Campion and Peter Wimsey, the upper class dolt mingling with the lower classes, but an effective cover to attend parties, meetings and other gatherings to try and figure out what big plot the Communists have in mind to disrupt England. Great fun as always, a quick and entertaining read - Freddy is coming into his own, and doesn’t disappoint.
Third in this Freddy series. I kept feeling I had read this book or seen a film a lot like it before, odd bits of literary deja vu However, the setting is unusual enough and the date of publication new enough that an earlier encounter was highly unlikely. In any case, I enjoyed reading it enough to keep going. Freddy is asked to infiltrate a weekly meeting of Communists as he is a reporter and can say he is just researching a story. The Communists share the building where they meet once a week in the major hall with the women's temperance group, who meet in the minor hall at the same time-- so interminglings are inevitable, and Freddy has friends and acquaintances in both groups.
Freddy's breezy, privileged, and indulged style offers an amusing way to assess both communist and temperance philosophies, and his wit and general good nature toward all make me like him and find the book entertaining. At times this author has characters repeat plot points we already know in dialogue that slows the book down. At other times, her vocabulary charms me, using a little known or archaic term correctly and helping me better understand slang and social behaviors of varied social classes of the UK in the 1930s.
Freddy is mixed up in the ongoing battle between the Communists and the Temperance societies quite by chance and ends up working with British Intelligence!
A more ridiculous plot there's not but Freddy is amusing and it's quite a fun read. His old pal St. John Bagshawe is now running the Radical a communist newspaper having decided that things were getting a bit hot after the Hogmanay fiasco at Fives Castle. Jameson is still keeping an eye on St John and ropes in Freddy when a series of personal ads appear to be coded messages trying to stir discontent among the working class. He wants to know if St John is involved or just a dupe.
As the temperance society run by the Clarion owners wife meet in the same hall on the same day Freddy finds himself caught between the two uncomfortably close groups. When Miss Stapleton, who frequently makes reports to the police about the Communists suspicious behaviour is found dead in the hall after a meeting fingers are definitely pointing in their direction. Can Freddy find the killer and work out whether there's truth behind the rumours of an uprising to come or will he have bitten off more than he can chew?
The Third in the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series, and maybe not quite as good as the two before. In this Freddy is reporting on a public meeting of the Communist Party, where also, at the same venue, a meeting of the Temperance Party is being held. There is friction between these two groups, as the woman running the temperance meeting is convinced that the Communists are up to no good. Unfortunately, the woman is later found dead and robbed of her party's funds. Freddy has been at both meetings as he knows various members of both, and quickly becomes involved. He is almost immediately contacted by Henry James, and recruited to The Secret Services to find out what is happening with the Communists. Freddy is his usual easy-going character, but finding the investigation interesting, he quickly throws all his attention in to the situation. This made a quick easy read even if a bit farcical.
This is the third in the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series. Like the others, this is a light, but fun mystery featuring Freddy becoming involved in two movements that share a hall in Clerkenwell. Both were popular movements at the time - the temperance movement and communism. The redoubtable Miss Olive Stapleton, of the temperance side, believes that the communists are up to something and is then found dead.
Freddy finds himself caught up in intelligence, a possible assassination and demonstrations on the streets. There are some fun scenes, as when Freddy takes a bored young woman named Mildred to a party, where she becomes drunk, and he realises that other mothers tend to warn their daughters away from him. I do find the Freddy books enjoyable and will definitely continue the series.
Unfortunately the Temperance meeting and the Communists have to share the Clerkenwell Central Hal with each other. The ladies of the Temperance society are not happy concerning this, especially Miss Olive Stapleton. This is made worse when Miss Stapleton is found dead. Meanwhile Henry Jameson at British Intelligence asks Freddy to attend the Communist meetings as he suspects they are trying to arrange another general strike. Another enjoyable well-written mystery with its likeable main character
Asked by the Gov't, Freddie goes undercover to suss out the goings on of the Communist Rally meetings that meet in the town hall on the same night as the Temperance group. When one of the Temperance woman is found dead after a meeting, he tries to solve the crime as well as foil the plot of the more radical communist members. Took me a while to get into this particular book. I am a big Clara Benson fan, but this book seemed to move too slow for me.
I love the Clara Benson books. They are so easy to read and entertaining. Angela was great and now Freddy is fully establishing himself as a favorite. This adventure see trouble with the communists and the temperance groups, and Freddy in the middle of it all. Loved it😀😀���
There was a lot to like about this book. I thought, however, it was a bit confusing. Too many characters had similar names, and as a strong supporter of labor unions, I found that the anti labor rhetoric hard to take, not knowing what the characters really felt. Now on to book three.
Another enjoyable mystery in this series; I liked this one better than #2 but not quite as much as #1. In this book, the murder is actually rather secondary to the conspiracy, but I was still surprised to find out "who did it". Freddy is still an amusing central character and Benson's writing is still refreshingly clever and accomplished. I'm sure I'll be reading #4!
Union strike intrigue anyone? Finished this cozy this morning and I think (not sure) I might be done for a while with Freddy Pilkington...I still like him but I just need a break from the same formula with just a different murder mystery to solve. Also, the outrageous aristocracy hit me hard in this one!
Book 3 of the new Christie-esque murder mystery series by the author, featuring Freddy Pilkington-Soames rather than Angela Marchmont, which gives the books a very different flavour. Angela was very much a lady, so her sleuthing was conducted over cups of tea and genteel dinner parties, whereas Freddy is a man about town, and there’s a certain amount of creeping about in the middle of the night, and he gets physical from time to time. Unlike Angela, there’s no mysterious past to be gradually revealed, and Freddy’s very much London-based. I’m rather hoping he’ll escape the town setting at some stage; I miss the country house setting of so many of Angela’s stories.
However, this outing for Freddy has a good array of eccentric characters in the ladies of the Temperance Society and the (mostly) gentlemen of the Communist Alliance, who share the same local community hall. When one of the ladies is stabbed with a paper knife, Freddy is roped in by British Intelligence to investigate both the murder and a revolutionary plot.
I never quite got the communists straight in my head, so I had very little clue what was going on there, but it didn’t matter much. The plot unfolds in the regular way, with a great deal of dry humour, Freddy’s usual willing but bumbling style and some implausible drama at the end, before all is revealed, plots are foiled and the day is saved. I’m not a big fan of the spies-and-revolutions theme of this series, and I’d much rather return to the body-in-the-library country house style, but this is still a totally enjoyable read. Four stars.