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From the s to the s, mysteries were published with floor plans of houses and even maps of whole villages to help readers work out who the murderer might be. Since the s, writers haven't been quite as focused on where a crime takes place but when they are, their books can stand out from the rest. This is the case with former professor of architecture Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla mysteries, an award-winning series of British police procedurals set in various well-realised locations.
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In these books, Maitland who lives in Australia but has set all but one of his novels overseas manages to accomplish what many other authors who make a feature of place can only aspire to - his setting becomes one of the characters. Maitland's new book, Chelsea Mansions , begins promisingly.
Two American tourists visiting London are walking back to their hotel one evening after attending the Chelsea Flower Show. Suddenly, from out of the crowd, someone pushes the man aside, grabs the woman and hurls her into the traffic, right in front of an oncoming bus.
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This bizarre and horrifying murder has its roots in a crime committed many decades before and, with her boss, Chief Inspector David Brock, taken seriously ill soon after the investigation begins, Inspector Kathy Kolla struggles to solve one of the most difficult cases she has ever faced. Once again Maitland supplies us with some interesting information about how a police investigation is run: there's a bit here about a press conference where we learn of one of the tricks police may employ to manipulate the media and we get to see a high-tech listening device in action.
Although not perhaps quite as vividly memorable as some of Maitland's other settings, the Chelsea Mansions Hotel - where the murdered woman and her companion were staying and which holds the key to solving the mystery - maintains a suitably sinister and brooding presence.
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