The Gilded Edge by Danny Miller
|The Gilded Edge by Danny Miller|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Gritty, glamorous, full of vicious criminals and society belles, everything 1960s London is famous for.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 395||Date: May 2012|
These were the dark days, when the Krays had yet to be brought to justice and the underworld in London was based on protection rackets and armed robberies.
These were the days when a politician getting caught with a call girl was a national scandal and generated genuine fear and outrage rather than a few front page headlines soon forgotten. The headlines generated then are still quoted now.
These were also the glory days. The days when the city was Swinging, freedom was in the air, the jet set was just taking off, casino-style-gambling hadn't been long legal and still had that James Bond touch to it. There was a lot of money about. Not all of it old money.
And class… well, Britain never really has changed much when it comes to notions of class.
Johnny Beresford is definitely old money, definitely class, from a family that had seen off Armadas, shot arrows at Agincourt, aimed muskets at roundheads, gone over the top at Flanders… and spat fire over the white cliffs of Dover… They'd probably gone further back than that if there'd been records to prove it. Johnny however is on the slide.
Losing his last hand of cards, Johnny knows he is almost certainly about to die.
In another part of town… [Miller doesn't shy away from the clichés, rather uses them to good effect] Marcy Jones, who is no money, neither old nor new, almost makes it home. She's ambushed and brutally murdered. From the top of the stairs, her innocent daughter watches it happen.
Cut to a card school in the Inferno a.k.a. the cellar of the local police headquarters, where the detective squad are winding up a session with accusations of cheating. One of them is Vince Treadwell. Treadwell is glad to be given the Belgravia caper rather than the Notting Hill one, even if he knows it's mainly because he's partnering the DCI. What he doesn't yet know is just how intrinsically the two will become linked.
What follows is classic crime fiction set in a time that means that when the film gets made a really classy director will shoot it in black and white – it deserves an arty noir grimy grubby treatment with that slightly gilded edge of glamour.
Maybe it won't get the treatment, but it should, because that's how it reads.
Treadwell starts to investigate Beresford's death he gets caught up with his off-the-rails girlfriend, Isabel Saxmore-Blaine, beautiful, society girl, poor-little-rich-girl connected to all of the current 'set' but with family connections in higher places – and a brother who somehow doesn’t quite cut it. The prime suspects are the Montcler Club set (sorry but 'set' is such a sixties word – hard not to overuse it). These are Beresford's friends who were all at Eton together and now win and lose serious money at the gaming tables of their very exclusive Berkley Square club.
That's before the Marcy Jones connection surfaces.
Of course as a reader, you know the two cases are going to be linked, so Miller never pretends otherwise. He just tells the two stories separately until the point at which, from the investigators' point of view, they do. After the prologue sets up the scene for us, we're almost entirely in the hands of Treadwell. It's not a first person narrative – some of the scrapes that follow utterly prevent that being workable – but it is primarily Treadwell focussed.
As a protagonist, he is finely drawn and of the time. Intelligent (he studied law before joining the force) but handy with not-just-his-fists when it comes to a scrap. He's a sharp dresser, young-enough, ambitious, smart enough to learn from his superiors, wise enough to take a bollocking from the boss when he's earnt it… and gung-ho enough to promptly ignore it and go his own way anyway. Treadwell is what Bond would have been if he'd joined the Met rather than MI6.
We're handed plausible scenario after scenario… none of them being fully debunked, but none of them totally holding water either, each with just enough doubt to keep Treadwell pressing on, pushing buttons and stirring up the kind of sleeping dogs you really should let lie.
I'm not sure it was entirely necessary to bring Lord Lucan into the fray, and there are one or two other references that feel a bit anachronistic to me: did coppers back then really talk about being on public sector pay in 1965? Accepting that pollution was becoming a major bugbear, were solar panels already being seen as the answer? I remember them on Tomorrow's World and that must have been early 70s rather than mid-60s. I can't believe people thought of themselves as number crunchers back then.
But these are quibbles. Much of the language is picturesque in a way that is absolutely right. The book is perfectly paced, Miller allows you to enjoy the scenery, whilst not letting you want to linger too long. The fight sequences are brutal. The inevitable sex scenes won't win any awards (good or bad). The suspense holds and the surprises hit. The denouement works and the loose ends are gathered up in such a way as to suggest that Treadwell might be back… but if he isn't, that's ok too.
In short: it works.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Gilded Edge by Danny Miller at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Gilded Edge by Danny Miller at Amazon.com.
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