Australian crime writer Barry Maitland guest blogs for us to tell the story behind his latest Brock and Kolla murder mystery Chelsea Mansions.
A few years ago I went to the Chelsea Flower Show in London, and as I looked around – the cascades of beautiful blooms, the people sipping champagne on the lawns, the band playing – I thought, in that nasty way that crime-writers think, that it would be a great place for a murder. As I began to do research into that well-heeled area of London I came across accounts of its recent invasion by very wealthy Russians, some of whom had made billions from ripping off the assets of their country after the break-up of the Soviet Union. I began to investigate their stories, the dramatic lives they had led, their extravagant life-styles in their new home, and the tensions that arose from this influx of new wealth into the historic ‘golden postcodes’ of London. And there were accounts too of murders and sudden deaths among the Russian exiles in London, possibly initiated by the Russian secret services and resentful authorities in the old country.
All of this gave me a wonderful source of material to begin to weave a new mystery for my two detectives, DCI David Brock and DI Kathy Kolla of the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command, to solve. As I – and they – began to get immersed in the hidden life of Chelsea, we encountered the multi-millionaire Mikhail Moszynski, with his new Caribbean model wife Shaka and a colourful Russian entourage, who had created a glitzy palace in Chelsea Mansions, a grand Victorian residential block near Sloane Square in the heart of Chelsea, to the discomfort of the locals. We discovered that things could turn very nasty indeed, especially when we came up against an old adversary, the corrupt member of parliament Sir Nigel Hadden-Vane, who had almost ruined Brock once before, and who was now feeding off Moszynski’s ambitions for a British knighthood.
Chelsea Mansions is the eleventh murder mystery that I’ve shared with Brock and Kolla, and by the end of it I felt as shattered as they must have done. As always, it turned out to be more a why-dunnit than a who-dunnit, a question of trying to fathom the motivation of characters driven by rich and complicated histories.
I’m feeling recovered now, and Brock and Kolla have come knocking on my door once again, with a tricky new problem that will take us into the secret life of yet another dark corner of London.
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