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DOUBLE REVIEW: A Death in Bloomsbury – David C. Dawson

A Death in Bloomsbury co-op - David C. Dawson

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, British Crime

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay, Lesbian

Reviewer: Maryann / Tony

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About The Book

Everyone has secrets… but some are fatal. 

1932, London. Late one December night Simon Sampson stumbles across the body of a woman in an alleyway. Her death is linked to a plot by right-wing extremists to assassinate the King on Christmas Day. Simon resolves to do his patriotic duty and unmask the traitors.
But Simon Sampson lives a double life. Not only is he a highly respected BBC radio announcer, but he’s also a man who loves men, and as such must live a secret life. His investigation risks revealing his other life and with that imprisonment under Britain’s draconian homophobic laws of the time. He faces a stark choice: his loyalty to the King or his freedom.

This is the first in a new series from award-winning author David C. Dawson. A richly atmospheric novel set in the shadowy world of 1930s London, where secrets are commonplace, and no one is quite who they seem.

The Review

Maryann’s Review:

A Death in Bloomsbury is the beginning of a new series “The Simon Sampson Mysteries” by David C. Dawson. The writing is excellent, and I commend Mr. Dawson for not Americanizing his story. He brings out the flavor of British, Scottish and cockney accents and phrases with phrases like “old thing” and “just so.”

Simon Sampson was an investigative reporter for The Chronicle, and was know for his column titled “Sleuth.” Thinking the BBC would be more lucrative, he took a job as a news announcer with promise of a reporter position. But the government prevented the BBC from competing with the newspapers, and his dream of being a reporter faded.  

At the Fitzroy Tavern, Simon relates his strange story of the night to Johnny the barman, his very good friend, and to Florence Miles aka Bill. He also makes a new friend in twenty-one year old Cameron McCreadie, from Scotland. Cameron is new to the London area, and has a position working at St. James Palace.

Simon found a women in an alley, and when he returned with a constable, the women had disappeared. Of course, the constable was no help at all. It seemed like he didn’t care or even believe an ounce of Simon’s story. Simon has some evidence that he shows to Cameron: a unique metal button and a small, expensive clutch bag.

Cameron gives his opinion about the objects that Simon discovered, and encourages Simon they venture back to the alley. With Cameron’s help and his torch (flashlight, for those not familiar with British English), they discover a brown sealed envelope. With what they find in the envelope and another tragic connection to Simon, he has no idea who to trust.  He only knows for sure that he has to protect his friends and himself. As his situation becomes more confusing and complicated, he has no choice but to go on the run.   

I like this new character. Simon Sampson is a man of integrity, morality, and honesty. He believes in what is true and right. He yearns the day when he will be able to to be himself and have the freedom and right to love who he wants too, and he understands the grave consequences of the homophobic laws.

Florence Miles, aka Bill, is an important character in this story too.  She has been a best friend to Simon. She’s very opinionated and outspoken about women’s situations in a world dominated by men. In fact, she has Simon curious about sapphic relationships between women, and he wants to learn more about their plight.  As much as I liked her flamboyant character, I grew suspicious of her as the story progressed.

Because of Bill’s part in this story, there are many famous tidbits about Oscar Wilde, Marlena Dietrich and especially Noel Coward, and much of the story takes place at Coward’s home “Goldenhurst” in Aldington.   

The story also takes place during a dangerous era, as Adolf Hitler is planning to move his Nazi Party into power.

I got to read a sample of the first chapter many months ago, and I’m delighted how this novel developed. It’s a suspenseful thriller, fast-paced action, with danger, corruption, murder, espionage, sadness and humor. This is already on my top favorite mysteries, and I’m excited to hear that David C. Dawson has a second and third book already in the works!

Tony’s Review:

A Death in Bloomsbury is lovely stuff, all very BBC English and quaintly period-perfect. It’s set in late December 1932, when Fascism was on the rise and there was a lot of disaffection amongst the working classes. The world is on the cusp of change.

The story builds on the suspicions of the relationship between the Prince of Wales and Adolf Hitler by extending them back in time before he came to the throne in 1936. The thirties Britain described here is nigh on perfect, with the interactions between people being very influenced by perceived class. 

David Dawson recreates the world of 1932 with a few nice twists. It’s almost the real thing, a near-alternative reality close enough to pass. This is an exciting read, with set pieces in taverns, Noel Coward’s home “Goldenhurst,” and the grounds at Sandringham Estate, one of the Royal residences. There are murders, innocent victims, daring escapes, loss, stuffed shirts who take little notice of the world at large, and a secret gay community that may not be totally inclusive, but tries. The book deals with social attitudes in a very matter-of-fact way. 

Simon Sampson is a news announcer for the BBC radio transmissions. He is an ex-reporter and a gay man hiding in plain view, as all gay people were in the thirties, just like his colleague and friend Bill, the chain-smoking BBC’s head of libraries Miss Miles.

Simon is a bit impulsive, and has a tendency to jump in where angels fear to tread. When he comes across an injured woman hidden beneath a pile of hessian sacks, he sets off on the adventure of his life, involving King George V, the Prince of Wales and a fascist plot. There are deaths along the way, and Simon has a couple of near misses himself.

Bill is along for the ride much against her better judgement and, like Simon, it is going to experience personal loss as well as unwanted excitement. Bill provides for some snarky, ill-tempered and light hearted moments. I had to smile or laugh outloud as she gave Simon one tongue lashing after another, mostly deserved ones at that. The two of them have a lot of affection for each other, much to Bill’s disdain. 

The other characters embody the deference shown by servants, waitresses, and the police to anyone well dressed. This includes Cameron, who is an equerry in the Royal household. Being gay, he can transcend class barriers while out drinking with like-minded persons. He’s more than just a bit of rough and has an important part to play in intrigue and Simon’s emotions. Simon has no expectations, but you get the feeling he would pursue his heart, given the chance. With the dangers that lie ahead of the main characters, nothing is certain.

Simon is not a goody goody but he reflects some of the changing (and hopefully improving) attitudes towards women. It was only four years previous that all women over 21 got the vote (men got this in 1918, as prior to that time, only 58% of them could vote and 0% women). He can be as indignant as Bill at the way women are treated, but he is also the product of the system of public schools and jobs for the boys. The system where the Director General of the BBC invites ‘all gentlemen of senior management to join him in his office for a brief celebration to mark the BBC’s first Christmas in the new Broadcasting House.’ Simon sees no problem with that, even when Bill points out that she is senior management but not a gentleman. Simon says it’s an oversight, and tries to defend his boss, but Bill’s not having it.

Simon is definitely getting lessons in how the world works when he is with Bill. All these social revelations are done with restraint, and are quite powerful and period appropriate.

Yeah, excellent. Bill, you are my hero, just don’t stub your cigarette out on my hand. You wouldn’t, would you?

The Reviewers

Tony is an Englishman living amongst the Welsh and the Other Folk in the mountains of Wales. He lives with his partner of thirty-six years, four dogs, two ponies, various birds, and his bees. He is a retired lecturer and a writer of no renown but that doesn’t stop him enjoying what he used to think of as ‘sensible’ fantasy and sf. He’s surprised to find that if the story is well written and has likeable characters undergoing the trails of life, i.e. falling in love, falling out of love, having a bit of nooky (but not all the time), fending off foes, aliens and monsters, etc., he’ll be happy as a sandperson who has just offloaded a wagon of sand at the going market price. As long as there’s a story, he’s in. He aims to write fair and honest reviews. If he finds he is not the target reader he’ll move on.

Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California.  Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018.  My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen.  New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.

I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.

My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012.  She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series.  Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book! 

As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.

My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing.  I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.

I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews.  One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group.  Joining her site was such an eye opener.  I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.

But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams. 


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