“… a brisk, bright-eyed old gentleman who was having the time of his life.” #BeverleyNichols #MurderbyRequest


It’s a while since I picked up one of Beverely Nichols’ books (2021, to be exact) but if you do a quick search on the Ramblings you’ll see just how many of his books I’ve read and loved over the past. So when I was having a zoom with my BFF recently she mentioned having seen several reasonably priced Beverleys for sale online, and that reminded me that I hadn’t read him for so long and also that I had the final volume of his five detective stories, “Murder by Request” unread on the shelves. Inevitably I felt compelled to pick it up straight away and reacquaint myself with not only Beverley’s wonderful writing but also his very entertaining detective, Horatio Green.

As I’ve said about Nichols’ mysteries in the past, they aren’t necessarily the best of Golden Age style writing, but I really do enjoy them as pure escapism. Horatio Green is regarded as an elderly gentleman (though if I recall correctly, he’s only around 60 in this book…) and lives with his neice Charlotte who ably supports him in his daily life (and also tries to keep him away from detecting!) As the book opens, Christmas is approaching and Horatio and Charlotte are contemplating a relaxing and indulgent time. However, this peaceful prospect is disturbed by a visit from Sir Owen Kent. The latter has been receiving death threats, although no-one could possibly deliver them to the private residence in which he lives; and he asks Green to help him prevent the murder.

Charlotte is resistant until it turns out that Kent will be spending his Christmas at a health spa, ‘Harmony Hall’, run by Kent’s fanatical brother-in-law. Horatio does have a habit of over-indulging and as he’s sniffed out a potentially mysterious case, he’s able to persuade Charlotte that it would be good for him to spend Christmas looking after his health, and so off he goes.

The spa, it has to be said, is populated with a lively set of characters, from Kent’s sister Maisie, who has a fondness for alcohol through to journalist and TV crooner, Paul Stole, who has a very over-inflated ego. However, when the inevitable happens, Green’s old sparring partner, Superintendant Waller from Scotland Yard, is summoned to investigate; and the two will follow their own methods and trails to come to a somewhat surprising conclusion!

When Waller entered the room he found Mr Green lying on the chaise-longue, reading – for at least the twentieth time – the immortal adventures of Mapp and Lucia, by the late E.F. Benson. The old gentleman regarded the Lucia books as among the neglected masterpieces of comic literature and, like many other followers of the master, had an uncanny faculty for detecting a Luciaphile merely by a tone of voice or a turn of phrase.

As a mystery, “Murder by Request” was actually very enjoyable, although I must be honest here and say that Beverley doesn’t play fair; there are number of threads of investigation which are undertaken by the two ‘tecs but never revealed to the reader! Nevertheless, I believe from other online reviews that readers of the book *have* guessed whodunnit, so maybe I was just being dense. The plot was quite ingenious, though, the characters entertaining and well drawn, and the solution a satisfying one as far as I was concerned. Green is a wonderful character, with his highly developed sense of smell always providing an interesting angle to his investigations, and I’m actually a bit sorry I have no more of his stories to read.

The Horatio Green stories were published over the 1950s with this last one being issued in 1960, and so the modern world is creeping in – and I do love the way Nichols satirises this! The health spa, with its starvation diet and bizarre pseudo-medical treatments, is a hoot – imagine existing on water and lemon juice for days on end!! Tellingly, one of the female inmates is a young actress who Green observes needs to actually put on a little weight rather than losing even more, and it does seem that celebrity culture hasn’t changed that much.

As for the media, the journalist Stole is a marvellous creation; self-obsessed and desperate to scoop a story, he rushes off as soon as the murder has happened to write an execrable story for his paper. That piece is reproduced in the book, and it’s frankly worthy of today’s rags – a terrible, over the top story that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Daily Mail. Beverley definitely saw the gutter press for what they were…

The back of the jacket has a nice picture of Bev with one of his beloved cats!

So “Murder by Request” turned out to be a wonderful read for me, just when I fancied it, and a reminder of how much I love Beverley Nichols and his books. As I said above, I’m just sad that this is the final bow of Horatio Green because he really was a lovely creation; and these books were very highly regarded at the time, so it’s a shame they’re now out of print and hard to come by. I shall treasure my copies, and keep them safe – because I have no doubt I’ll want to return in future to the investigations of Horatio Green! 😀

“…there is always the exception that proves the rule.” #beverleynichols #therichdiehard


As I approached the return to work at the start of September (yes, I’m behind with my reviewing…) I was in desperate need of some pure comfort reading; often I turn to classic crime, and often I turn to Beverley Nichols. So what better idea than to combine the two, in one of Beverley’s wonderful crime novels? 😀

Nichols was a man of many talents, and I’ve written about him many times on the Ramblings; and I’ve read and covered three of the five crime novels he produced during his writing life (“No Man’s Street“, “The Moonflower” and “Death to Slow Music“). I do own all five, and they weren’t easy to track down (and not always cheap), but I’m very happy to have my battered old copies with their fragile covers. His books feature his detective Horatio Green, and I would probably say that the ones I’ve read have been really enjoyable although not necessarily the best mysteries written! Nevertheless, they’re a real joy and pure escapism, so I decided to pick up the fourth, “The Rich Die Hard”.

My Mystery Book Guild edition with what remains of its cover… 😦

Looking back at the blog, I see that I haven’t read one of these mysteries since 2014, which is a little alarming – time does fly… By the time of the third book, I felt that Beverley was getting into his stride with crime writing, and that “Death to Slow Music” was the best so far; I may have to revise that opinion… ;D

“Rich…” takes place in that quintessential setting of the Golden Age mystery, a country house. This particular one, Broome Place, is owned by the financier Andrew Lloyd, and it is simply dripping with excess. The fixtures and fittings are luxurious, the artworks original and priceless, everything is tasteful, nothing is vulgar. Staying at the house are a number of characters: the host, Andrew and his wife Nancy; Sir Luke Coniston, Andrew’s great rival, and his wife Sybil; Miss Sally Kane, a rich young woman; Mr Cecil Gower-Jones, a briliant musical critic; and Miss Margot Larue, who starts the story very drunk and is soon very dead!

Mr. Green sat at the window of his bedroom, listening to the wind. This had always been one of his favourite occupations, and Broome Place, on this wild November evening, was an ideal situation in which to indulge it. The old house flung back a thousand answers to the wind’s assaults, shrill protests in the high chimneys, long-drawn sighs in the gables, and many threats and whispers in the dark arches of the courtyard.

Needless to say, the local police are baffled; and there are attempts to pass the death off as suicide. However, things do not add up, Superintendant Waller is soon on the scene, and a certain Mr. Horatio Green happens to be passing by Broome Place with his niece Charlotte, hoping that the gardens are open to the public so they can take a look… Before long, they are, of course, embroiled in detecting, and when you add in a butler with a past, a late arrival to the party, a mysterious figure flitting round the edges of the story, and even what you might call an act of iconoclasm, then you have all the ingredients for a fine mystery – which this certainly is!

Beverley (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

“The Rich Die Hard” is certainly a fascinating read on a number of levels, not least the portrait it paints of the monied, the way they live and the kind of people they are. Nichols’ characterisation is particularly interesting here; the protagonists are not likeable people, driven by money of course, and they’re often eaten up with envy and verging on madness. They hide their secrets deeply, enabled by that money, but despite all they have it certainly doesn’t bring them happiness. I’ve found that Beverley’s writing often has a harder core than you might expect, and although he’s not explicity judgemental, he certainly seems to recognise his characters for what they are. Mr. Green may enjoy the comforts and luxuries of Broome Place (as I’m sure his creator would) but he certainly is under no illusions about its owners and their guests.

From the top drawer he took out his camera, and old-fashioned model in a worn leather case. He handled it gingerly, as he handled all mechanical objects; he could never rid himself of a childish complex that they were secretly hostile to humanity and might take it into their heads to explode.

Needless to say, there are many twists and turns to the plot, and Mr. Green quietly moves through the action observing and exercising his ‘little grey cells’, though he isn’t always able to prevent further tragedies. I have to say I had no idea regarding the final denouement which was very clever although quite unexpected (and maybe if I’d concentrated more I would have picked up hints), but that doesn’t matter. The motivations were dark, the characters somewhat twisted, and the lives people had led up to the murder often tragic. There was certainly the sense that there was really no point in having all that money, because despite the luxury, it didn’t bring the rich characters any happiness.

The monologue – entitled simply “Mary Anne” – was one of those trifles which, in the hands of Miss Beatrice Lillie, are transformed into souffles of delight. In the hands of Lady Coniston it was not so easily digestible. However, a British audience always prefer to see an amateur – particularly a titled amateur – make a fool of herself by accident than a professional make a fool of herself by design.

Nichols’ writing is, of course, always a joy; and thought there’s plenty of dry wit on show, there’s perhaps less flippancy here than normal because of the subject matter. In fact, Beverley can do darkness and drama with the best of them, and there’s certainly plenty of that here, leading up to a very dramatic event at the end. “Rich” was a book I sped through in a couple of sittings because I was so engrossed and was enjoying it so much. The book was first published in 1957, although in some ways it feels a little like it was set in earlier times. Interesting, reference is made to one character (a personable young man with a police record) having been accosted by ‘certain elderly gentlemen’ and suspected of importuning; it’s worth remember that 1950s Britain was still virulently anti-homosexuality, so a mild non-judgemental mention such as this is telling and I’m not sure whether Nichols’ sexuality would have been common knowledge at the time.

My BN crime collection!

So turning to Beverley was exactly the right thing to do when I needed comfort and escapism. “The Rich Die Hard” is an excellent entry in the Horatio Green mystery series (and I wish I had more than one left unread!!!) The detective himself is a treat (with his olfactory skills on show – he’s always sensitive to smells!) and the whole story wonderfully engrossing. There *are* a couple of references which reflect the age of the book, although the worst word I think is being used to reflect the character of the speaker, as Mr. Green’s language is milder. However, the book is a joy from start to finish, and if you get a chance to read any of Nichols’ detective books I highly recommend them – the perfect antidote to the ghastliness of the modern world!

Recent Reads: Death to Slow Music by Beverley Nichols


I hadn’t realised quite what an effect the Martha Gellhorn book had had on me till I started casting around for the next thing to read – and realised that I had a bit of a book hangover and really, really needed something in total contrast and something that would be a bit more feel-good – enter Beverley, to the rescue! “Death to Slow Music” is the third in his detective series, featuring Horatio Green, and it was the first one I actually owned – and isn’t the cover just gorgeous!


The mystery is set in the coastal town of Seabourne, where a gruesome discovery is made in the Ghost Train on the Pier. Superintendent Waller and his faithful sidekick Bates are called down from London; and fortunately Mr. Green, accompanied by his niece Charlotte, is on hand! The murdered woman is the wife of the man in charge of the pier’s slot machines, and initially there seems to be little motive. However, there is the hint of a connection with ‘show people’ – in the form of Nigel Fleet (the Noel Coward of his age) and his musical genius Julian Doyle. Then there is Sylvia Lincoln, an ageing diva who can no longer hit the notes; Christine, a clairvoyant and amoreuse of Fleet, who cares for her slightly disturbed brother Robin; and Lord Lancing who is backing the show financially and whose main interest is Sylvia. Add in the somewhat smooth and sinister local doctor, Mickleham, and you have the recipe for a wonderful thriller!

And wonderful this certainly is! Of the three Horatio Green mysteries I’ve read so far, this is definitely the best. Nichols seemed to be getting into his stride with crime fiction and the plot is very satisfying. I only had a slight glimmer of what might be the motive, but there were a number of twists and turns, plenty of dramatic happenings and enough confusion to keep me thoroughly fuddled until the end. The characters were a beautifully varied lot, and Charlotte had a bigger role in this story than in previous ones. Once more music was of great importance to the storyline, and Mr. Green’s olfactory skills came into place as usual.

“The Regency Theatre was one of the most charming buildings in Seabourne – a light, airy structure in faded stucco, constructed in the year 1806. Its delicate facade and pillared portico had long been cherished by all students of Regency architecture. It was therefore hardly surprising that most of the members of the Seabourne Town Council were eager to demolish it at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to replace it by a block of chromium-fronted apartment houses shaped like a giant match-box.”

I know I’m very biased, but I have to say that Beverley Nichols could write about anything and make it enjoyable! His prose is as lovely as ever and even though he’s controlling his usual flights of language, some of them still slip through:

“It was two days later, and they were sitting in a corner of The Nell Gwynn Parlour at the Grand Hotel – so named, presumably, because its principal decoration consisted in a dado of diseased oranges”.

He also conjures up beautifully the atmosphere of a British seaside town in the 1950s (I couldn’t help thinking of Brighton, but it could equally well have been Bournemouth!) – the slightly seedy quality, the desperate putting together of a show and talking up so the London press will be interested, the excitement of the local press when they have a decent story on their hands. The character of Nigel Fleet is particularly well drawn, with his mastery of an audience (whether in a theatre or just in everyday life). And it’s a real delight to re-encounter the long-suffering Waller, who puts up so well with Mr. Green’s vagueness, and often has a pithy point to make:

“The cliché had the desired effect. Mr. Fothergill swallowed it, sighed and relaxed. As he took his leave, he looked comparatively calm and reassured. What would mankind do without its clichés, wondered Waller, as he listened to his footsteps shuffling away down the corridor. How would the great British public comfort itself without the knowledge that no stones were being unturned, no avenues unexplored, no efforts relaxed, no reasonable precautions ignored, and all the other argon with which those in authority concealed their incompetence? However, such thoughts were unfitting in a policeman. Besides, there were a great many stones left to turn.”

Crime novels are my go-to when I need a relaxing, reassuring read (odd, that!) and Beverley Nichols is rapidly becoming someone I rely upon for a read I’ll enjoy. I may just have sent off for a copy of no. 4 in the series…. 🙂

A little clutch of Beverley books…


Yes, I know – Christmas is coming, I  have enough books already and no spare space, so I really *shouldn’t* be buying any more. But that’s sensible talk, and I’m not sensible when it comes to books….

So I have obtained a few more Beverley Nichols books – and there is a reason behind this!

I was browsing through a certain online auction site (as you do) and I came across the lovely copy of “Death to Slow Music”.  It was very reasonably priced and had such a beautiful cover that I felt I must snap it up – which I did, only to discover that this is in fact the third book in his detective series! So of course, being a series pedant, I will have to read these in order, which necessitated a little ordering as the local library has failed in its duty to provide me with old murder mysteries!

I’ve already had a little peek at “No Man’s Street”, the first Horatio Green story, and it does look very enjoyable. So as soon as I have finished the current book, I may well be off on a Beverley binge!

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