A Dead Man in Malta, by Michael Pearce

A review by Lynley from Nerang Branch.

Whether reading one of his award-winning Mamur Zapt Egyptian mysteries, his Dmitri Kameron pre-Revolutionary Russia mysteries, or those involving Seymour of Special Branch, Michael Pearce always turns out a light but well-crafted mystery, liberally sprinkled with gentle humour.

Seymour (Anglicised surname) is a product of mixed Central-Eastern European parentage and has lived his life in the East London docklands amongst many other such families who have escaped their native lands one step ahead of the secret police. He is therefore multi-lingual and used to dealing with those suspicious of policemen.

This has brought him to the attention of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, which in turn sees him sent to the Mediterranean capitals in the years preceding World War One to solve crimes which may, or may not, involve intelligence or diplomatic sensitivities.

A Dead Man in Malta is Seymour’s seventh outing. The British occupy and administer Malta, and in the local naval hospital, one with an excellent record, two British seamen have died unexpectedly, along with a German balloonist who came down in the harbour very close to the latest British warship which has just joined the Fleet.

Is he a spy? How are the British seamen connected, if in fact they are? And then there’s a strong undercurrent of resentment against the British by any number of Maltese.

Amidst the mix is Mrs Wynne-Gurr who stirred up the hornet’s nest by writing to The Times. She is a lady of Causes, and looms large throughout as she escorts her visiting St John’s Ambulance ladies into everyone’s way and tries to blame the hospital practices.

This is a thoroughly entertaining read for anyone looking for some light relief.