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Mad Hatters Holiday by Peter Lovesey

Mad Hatters Holiday (original 1973; edition 1973)

by Peter Lovesey

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Like many of Peter Lovesey's other books, MAD HATTER'S HOLIDAY doesn't seem to get around to the crime fiction bit until about half way through.
This tale is set in 1882 England and the beginning of summer. Albert Moscrop goes to Brighton for a seaside holiday, taking with him his latest acquisitions, a couple of telescopes. Albert is a bit of a voyeur and likes to watch people, and Brighton with its promenading tourist population is the perfect place. Albert arrives at the beginning of the "real season", the accommodation prices have risen, and a better class of tourist has arrived. Albert discovers the attractive face of Zena Prothero, and decides to find out more about her. He follows her, her son, and then contrives to meet her husband. Still no crime. And then Zena seems to disappear. Albert feels compelled to go to the police.

At the same time a severed hand is discovered in the Alligator cavern at the Aquarium on the Brighton promenade jetty. The Brighton police feel that this is an investigation outside their capability, and send for London expertise in the form of Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackery from the Criminal Investigation Department. And so the two strands of the novel converge.

Peter Lovesey's first novel WOBBLE TO DEATH (1970) introduced the redoubtable Victorian policemen, Cribb and Thackeray. He won the Gold Dagger Award with THE FALSE INSPECTOR DEW and in 2000 joined the elite group of people awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award. I have been a Lovesey fan since WOBBLE TO DEATH arrived in South Australia in paperback, and you'll find him among my favourites. ( )
1 vote smik | Oct 30, 2009 |
Alfred Moscrop is looking forward to his holiday at Brighton. Like many other middle class Victorians, his two week stay by the sea is the high point of his summer.

But Moscrop has an unusual hobby. Today we might call him a Peeping Tom, but he would describe himself as an "optical enthusiast." He enjoys trying out his newest telescope on the bathers. He's not really looking for sexual secrets, he's just sort of, well, peeping. (Which honestly, how many of us do? You know, taking a look in someone's window as you drive by.)

This time, his spying has gotten him involved a little too deeply. He sees a remarkably beautiful woman. He can't help wanting to know about her. He follows her. He spies on her. He follows her stepson, her maid, her husband. And the more he watches, the more he gets tangled up in her life. He contrives a meeting with the family. He's convinced she's in the victim of a plot by her cheating husband. He sees himself as a rescuer.

What I enjoyed about this book was that I really couldn't tell where the story was going. Is Moscrop to be trusted? Is the woman? Are any of the characters really who they seem?

This is from a series featuring Victorian detectives Sergeant Cribb and was on the PBS show Mystery! But it wasn't quite like the others I had read in the series. I don't want to give too much away, so let me say that I really enjoyed it. There were some loose ends at the end of the book, but it felt like a realistic conclusion. Well done. ( )
1 vote cmbohn | Jun 20, 2009 |
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Brighton this year! Albert Moscrop closed his eyes, drew back his head and sniffed.
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Albert Moscrop's illicit romance with a lonely married woman makes him the prime suspect in the macabre murder of a servant girl in Victorian Brighton.
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In the height of the season in Brighton, 1882, Albert spends his holidays watching others. He is taken by the beauty of Zena. As he becomes accepted by her family he also finds himself at the centre of a murder.

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