Crime in Kensington by Christopher St. John Sprigg (1933)

At the urging of Lady Viola Merritt, newly minted “society journalist” Charles Venebles has come to take up residence at the Garden Hotel in Kensington. According to Lady Viola, while the accommodations are very comfortable, the price for them is also “amazingly cheap”, and the guests are an odd. Charles finds that there is definitely something fishy going on behind the hotel’s rather “uninspiring arrangement of stucco” with it’s odd queer assortment of guests, including a sinister Egyptian, a hysterical spinster with psychic visions, a clergyman who studies Coptic rites, and the mysterious proprietor and proprietress.

“This is really too awful…When one hears a bloke threaten to kill his wife and then immediately afterwards meets a sinister and mysterious Oriental, it is time to move somewhere else, for one has obviously walked into the plot of a thriller of the vulgarest and most exciting description.”

Sinister to say the least, for later that evening Mrs. Budge and Miss Sanctuary, another resident, disappear. One from a locked bedroom, the other in front of a witness. Before long the discovery of Mrs. Budge’s dismembered body brings Detective Inspector Bernard Bray Scotland Yard into investigate, with a little help from Charles Venables, who has some hidden talents which they will need to uncover the hotel’s secrets and solve a gruesome case of murder.

This was definitely a fun read, one filled with dark humor, excellent story-telling, and engaging, fascinating characters. Despite a description of someone who is pompous in appearance and wit, Venables is extremely likeable. As the amateur detective in the piece he is intelligent, as friend (and love interest) he is warm and charming.

The residents of the Garden Hotel provide a great deal of entertainment with their eccentricities. Bacteriologist and unpaid curate Reverend Septimus Blood, obsessed with reconstructing the Coptic rites; the numerous spinsters – Miss Mumby, a rich, elderly lady who “spends all her money on séances and cats”, Miss Hectoring with her moustache and “mountainous contours”, who acts as guardian-companion to Miss Geranium; and the sinister-looking, squint-eyed Egyptian Eppoliki, who meets Charles with a knowing wink and a nod.

The mystery is really quite a good one too. While the solution to the locked room and the identity of the murderer are fairly obvious the motive is not. Nor is the secret behind the hotel itself. Both are clever and original, and I believe, will fool just about every reader.

Moonstone Press has recently entered the fray and started reprinting forgotten GAD writers. This is one of four by Sprigg that they have printed. Here’s hoping for more! But until then, this is one that I highly recommend.

My Judgment – 4.25/5

Prior Rulings – Kate @ Cross Examining CrimeTomCat @ Beneath the Stains of Time

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Vintage Mystery Challenge 2018: Just the Facts, Ma’am – How: Death by Strangulation

Murder Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge – Crime scene: Bedroom; Red Herrings: Blood on an object

Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – October #2: Author’s birth month

10 thoughts on “Crime in Kensington by Christopher St. John Sprigg (1933)

  1. These Sprigg reprints are quite pleasing on the eye, and it’s great to see Moonstone Press bringing them back. Heaven alone knows when I’ll get round to reading one, but the GAD reprint march continues apace and is very exciting. Sprigg’s Death of an Airman — reprinted by the British Library — is also loads of fun.

    1. I have to find a copy of Airman. I keep meaning to but then another author or book catches my eye. Now that most of his works have been reprinted I have to get them all before the rest of the world discovers him and they become hard to get hold of! Sad that there are only seven and wonder what could have been if he had lived longer.

      1. “another author or book catches my eye” might, I think, be worth stitching on a pillow, so perfectly does it sum up my attempts to approach my TBR and TBB lists with anything approaching a sensible, er, approach. I get, and remain, excited about books like this being published, and the read and review them so far down the track that they’ve almost lapsed back into unavailability 😆

      2. I have so many authors and books I want to read it’s ridiculous! But I also have to stop myself from going on a binge with authors like Carr (which I now have all of) and French (which I am still collecting) to the detriment of the rest of my TBR/TBB.

      3. What you need is a good strong Robert Van Gulik obsession to distract you, or a Christopher Bush one. That would definitely help…

    1. When I started reading it my first thoughts were “Oh no! Not another pompous, monocle wearing, amateur detective!” But that very soon passed and now I’m placing the remaining three from Moonstone on my birthday wish list!

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