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READ THE BLURB
And then, one smoggy night …
The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.
Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.
God save the King! eh, George?
THE 1930s … thinking debutantes, Bright Young Things and P. G. Wodehouse? Think again—more like fascists, psychopaths, and kings of the underworld. GEORGE HARLEY’S London is a city of crime and corruption … of murder most foul, and smiling, damned villains.
In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.
With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.
But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.
Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.
READ THE REVIEW
At The Library, we love historical fiction and we love a good mystery, and in The Mask of the Verdoy we have them both. What an excellent start of a series.
The characters are all three-dimensional-- there are no stock characters that are there just to serve one purpose. They are real-- with a mixture of good points and bad traits. There's a large cast to be sure-- but the main character is George Harley, private detective who has an interesting backstory that the author skillfully reveals as the reader needs to know the information.
The novel begins in the 1930s. World War I is over and World War II has not yet begun. There's a definite change in the political scene in England and Mr. Lecomber gives us a clear overview of what was going on in the darker underside of England during this time.
The mystery itself is top-rate. The story pulled this reader in and didn't let go until the last page.
Good job, Mr. Lecomber-- I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. 5 stars
READ AN EXCERPT
STILL CLUTCHING THE distraught Gladys close to him the Italian moved forwards and fired up at the cage, the round ricocheting off the bars, briefly illuminating the gloom with a spray of sparks. Harley hunkered down, swore, and redoubled his efforts, finally forcing the catch and dropping through the small opening just as another bullet passed inches from his head.
The cage slewed as he dropped inside, the box of dynamite shifting a little to the left.
Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness he could quite plainly make out the length of two-core cable running through a drilled hole in the side of the box of explosives and out through the cage, snaking away into the gloom. He turned to peer through the bars—and was dismayed to see the second hand of the oversized clock ticking past the three minute mark.
He quickly lay down and started to crawl towards the bomb, the cage listing dangerously to and fro.
Girardi now fired again; this time the bullet made it through the bars to clatter terrifyingly around the inside of the cage.
‘Smith! You still there?’ shouted Harley, feeling in his jacket for his penknife.
‘You betcha, guv!’ came a voice from the gloom.
‘Shine a spotlight down there on that cowson, would yer? Try and dazzle him for me. Make it sharpish, now! We’ve only got seconds before this bloody thing goes up.’
MEET THE AUTHOR
Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.
All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.
Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.
So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …
Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.
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