MURDER IN THE HELLFIRE CLUB by Donald Zochert

MURDER IN THE HELLFIRE CLUB

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ben Franklin as sleuth--more in the talky, elegant, low-key tradition of Lillian de la Torre's Dr. Sam Johnson, Detector than the irritating vein of giddy historical name-dropping that has gushed since The Seven Per Cent Solution. In London on business in 1757, Franklin is at the Vulture Tavern when the notorious Hellfire Club--a baker's dozen of debauched rakes and intellectual renegades--is partying, and when one of them dies without a scratch in a locked room during the night, Franklin's knowledge of electricity clues him in to the how of this murder. But before he can prove the who and why, two more Hellfirers will die by Leyden jar. Distinctly unspectacular as detection, Zochert's concoction is nonetheless an admirable piece of period fluff--unstuffy but tasteful, bawdy in a genuinely Hogarthian mode, unostentatiously authentic, and packed with polished aphorisms, pointed repartee, and grateful turns of phrase. Having now demonstrated his ease with the style, let's hope that Zochert brings Ben back soon with a slightly better yarn.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1978
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston