Queen's Inn is London's youngest and most fashionable Inn of Court. On 29th February 1902, at a Feast, senior barrister Alexander Dauntsey collapses into his soup and dies. He has been poisoned. Soon after his friend Woodford Stewart is shot dead, and Lord Francis Powerscourt is summoned to discreetly investigate the matter of the murdered barristers.
His inquiries take him into the heart of legal London where the wills of the dead can reveal the crimes of the living. It takes him to the heart of a troubled marriage where lack of children imperils everything. And it takes him to Calne, a mysterious house in the country where the glorious past is boarded up and the treasures of generations hide beneath the dustsheets. There are many suspects: a jealous wife, a mistress fearful of being jilted, a work colleague beaten to the senior role in the Inn and a cuckolded husband who writes books about poisons. Powerscourt himself is put in grave danger before he finally solves the mystery of Death Called to the Bar.
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A step up from the disappointing previous story (Death of a Chancellor) but this is far from the first couple of novels in the series in terms of excitement. Instead we have a pretty straight-forward (dare I say dull?) murder plot - I was expecting a dramatic twist but actually it was all as obvious as it appeared - and some fairly turgid prose (My pet peeves of overuse of first names by characters in a two person conversation and too many overtly Christian references are again present). Johnny Fitzgerald, one of the more interesting characters in earlier novels, barely gets a look in and is reduced to bird-watching (yes, really) whilst Powerscourt solves the crime.The author has clearly done his homework, his descriptions of the Inns of Court etc are fascinating, but his obvious passion for art threatens to take over the story - he even has the Powerscourts move to a house across the road from the Wallace Collection so he has an excuse to send his characters there at every available opportunity.I'm going to give it a while before tackling the next in the series and I'm just hoping that the author finds his feet again before I give up entirely.
This one seemed more insubstantial than usual. This slight mystery never really comes to the boil and in fact is still barely simmering through the eventual denouement, despite a late gun battle in a London gallery. It was till quite a pleasant read but a bit dull. There were too few episodes of whimsy in this one. Usually I quite like Powerscourt when he gets distracted by his beloved history. There are still a lot of the Dickinson staples like the 'young innocent couple' and the obsessive, caricatured cameos but this one just seemed to me to be going through the motions. Two misfires in a row usually mans an abandoned series for me but I suspect I'll come crawling back to number 8 Manchester Road sooner or later.