As Nancy Haynes and Emerson Merckle, Bostonians in London for the annual flower show, walk toward their hotel after enjoying the beautiful displays, Emerson is knocked to the ground by an assailant, running at the couple at top speed. Nancy is knocked into the path of a bus and is killed. It is seemingly a terrible random act of violence committed by someone with no consideration of his surroundings and the people in his path and a shocking lack of conscience. How could he barrel into two people and not feel any responsibility for his actions? Interviews with Emerson and the bus driver bring David Brock and Kathy Kolla of the Serious Crimes Unit into the case when they learn that Emerson was deliberately knocked down and Nancy was picked up like a baby and thrown at the bus. All witness information about the assailant fails to produce a coherent description and, in the London of closed circuit cameras, the man has succeeded in keeping his face from being photographed by all of them. The man was too well prepared for the attack to allow anyone to believe for very long that it was random.
Emerson tells the police that neither he nor Nancy know anyone in London. They had plans to leave the next day for Scotland to meet some distant relatives of Nancy’s in Glasgow but the timing of the trip had hinged on Nancy’s desire to attend the Chelsea Flower Show. Tickets had to be purchased significantly in advance of the show, one of the biggest attractions in London each year. The trip was no secret but why would anyone want to harm Nancy Haynes?
Now seventy, Nancy had been to London with her parents when she was sixteen. On that trip, she had stayed at the Chelsea Mansions hotel and, in a decision based on sentimentality rather than practicality, she had chosen the hotel for this trip. Emerson agreed but was more than a little surprised by the derelict state in which he found the place; Nancy had not taken into account the passage of over fifty years. When he reminded her that he had wanted to book rooms at the Hilton, she laughed. “But our place has so much more character.” “Oh, it’s got character all right – a manager who can’t see, a concierge who can’t speak, and a bellboy who can’t walk….And you still haven’t told me why you picked it.” “It’s a secret, but I will tell you, when I am good and ready.” “A mystery, eh? Won’t you give me a clue?” “It’s a ghost story, but I won’t say any more than that.”
The hotel was across from a pretty little private park. Next to the hotel was the home of Mikhail Moszynski and his supermodel wife, Shaka Gibbons, who did not allow Mikhail to smoke his cigars in doors. Each evening Mikhail crossed over to the park, unlocked the gate, and sat to smoke his late night cigar in the peacc in the garden. He is usually accompanied by his bodyguard but on this night he slips away for a bit of solitude. The hotel isn’t precisely next to Mikhail’s home. It is surrounded by all the individual homes that has made up the property called Chelsea Mansions. Mikhail is determined to gain ownership of the hotel but he is finding that even the outrageously high amounts of money he offers are turned down. This night, he isn’t sitting alone for long. He is joined by an acquaintance and very quickly he is dead, stabbed very precisely by someone who was trained to be accurate. When the uniforms realize that they are outside the hotel of the the American murdered the same day, it is inevitable that Brock and Kolla are going to be called in.
The double murders, complicated as they are, become more complicated when they attract the attention of member of Parliament Sir Nigel Haddon-Vale, more Russians, MI5, and John Greenslade, a Canadian, who offers his services to Brock and Kolla to determine the authenticity of a note and who seems determined to find ways to stay close to the investigation.
CHELSEA MANSIONS is the eleventh book in the Brock and Kolla series and this book indicates that the writing, the plot, and the characters remain fresh and interesting. Brock and Kolla, two attractive people, are not attracted to each other, ensuring that the relationship is always professional and stronger because of it. This is another series that everyone who loves police procedurals should not miss.