About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang - Eric Peterkin is the sleuth many of us think we could be if opportunity arose. How many crime fiction bloggers have not dreamed of the chance to become sleuths solving puzzling murders? I am one of those bloggers. And should we be transported by time travel back to the Golden Age of crime fiction to take up the investigation even better. Eric lives out such a dream.

It is 1924 and Eric is spending his days reading at his club, the Britannia Club:

Eric had a job evaluating manuscripts for publication, and lately, most seemed
to be about mysterious deaths behind locked doors.

He sits in “his Usual Armchair” next to a fireplace reading with the occasional drink and discussion with fellow club members. He is filling his time with no real purpose to his life.

The Britannia Club “had but one requirement for membership, aside from being a gentleman: experience on the battlefield in the service of the Empire.” Eric had spent a year in the trenches of Flanders.

There has always been a Peterkin as a member of the club.

Yet Eric is as much tolerated as accepted at the Club. He is half Chinese. (His mother was Chinese.) There is a haughty race and class consciousness that looks down upon the “half-caste” Eric. He is “not properly English”. He bears the slights but is an angry young man.

Through all the English classes there is prejudice against the Chinese. The “yellow peril” is feared. They are a favoured villain in crime fiction of the era.

When the newest member, Albert Benson, is murdered at the club and there is doubt the police will aggressively seek out the killer Eric is ready to take up the investigation.

Aiding Eric is Avery Ferrett who spends his days at the Arabica coffee house occupied with horoscopes and tarot cards.

Eric is precisely logical. While Avery is his friend and assistant, a form of Watson, Eric has no belief in the stars or cards.

The investigation, as common with many post-WW I mysteries, involves events from the war. Eric’s investigation takes him to a vast country home, Sotheby Manor, which was a wartime hospital. (Think of Downton Abbey). All the pivotal members of the Club had connections with Sotheby. Adding to the intrigue a young Chinese woman, Emily Ang, who was working at the hospital disappeared during the summer of 1918.

Ang’s disappearance gained but a flicker of newspaper coverage. Many would equally like public attention to the Benson murder to slip away as quickly and quietly. Eric’s strong sense of duty will not abide a coverup. Despite the disdain and threats he endures.

With the murder having taken place in a locked vault Eric starts with determining how access was obtained. He is thorough and careful.

It is striking how Eric, when physically threatened, can almost instantly revert to a soldier fighting for his life. Eric had thought the War had had little effect upon him. Gradually he realizes his psyche was damaged by the year he spent at the front.

Eric says:

“We’ve all been through hell. And it’s turned some of us into monsters.”

I wish Eric had described and used some of the methods of investigation from the crime fiction he had been reading during his days at the Club. Eric draws upon no fictional sleuths of that era..

I wish Avery had been more developed as a character. He aids Eric but is not a true assistant. Most of the time Eric acts on his own. One of the strengths of the Sherlock Holmes series is the active participation of Dr. Watson.

I cannot recall reading about the status of English / Chinese and Chinese people in England during and after WW I. If anything Canada treated its Chinese residents of that era worse than England. There was discriminatory legislation and Chinese Canadians were not granted the vote until 1947.

A Gentleman’s Murder is a promising start to Huang’s crime fiction career.


  1. It sounds as though this has some interesting aspects, Bill. I like the premise, and it sounds as though there's some solid discussion of the times, including its prejudices. Hmmm...the plot seems to be the focus more than the characters. Still, it sounds interesting.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. There is a fair bit about the characters especially Eric.

    1. I was really surprised to learn the author of the Saint books
      Leslie Charteris had a Chinese father as the books are

      Violently British.
      Enjoy your blog very much.

      Christine Walleace

    2. Christine: Thanks for the comment. I had not known that information about his father. I learn something every day from blogging.

  3. There are some really interesting aspects to this book, from your report, though I think I, too, would feel disappointed by the lack of traditional sleuthing methods.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I would be interested in your thoughts especially on the position of English citizens of full or partial Chinese descent.