The Belting Inheritance by Julian Symons

The Belting Inheritance

After reading the outstanding vintage crime novel The Colour of Murder, I had an appetite for some more Julian Symons. And as luck would have it, British Library Crime Classics published another one of Symons’s books this month! Christopher Barrington is the narrator of The Belting Inheritance which is set in a grand old country house called the Belting mansion. Christopher is the son of James Barrington and Sarah Wainwright. The couple had eloped when they were young, particularly against the wishes of Lady Wainwright, Sarah’s aristocrat aunt. But after James and Sarah died in a plane crash when Christopher was twelve, Lady Wainwright had stepped in to look after the orphaned little boy, which is how Christopher had ended up in Belting.

The imposing Belting mansion is Lady Wainwright’s home where she lives with her two younger sons Miles and Stephen. The interior of the mansion had been frightening to Christoper at first, just like its inhabitants. However, overtime Christoper makes himself at home in Thomas Lovell – his Asian-inspired bedroom and comes to have a warm relationship with Lady Wainwright and Miles.

So at the University of Oxford, Christopher is devastated to learn that Lady Wainwright – who he regards as Mamma – is dying of cancer. When Christopher goes to see Lady Wainwright, she seems to be in high spirits despite her illness as David, Lady Wainwright’s second eldest son has sent her a letter! It was believed that David was killed during WWII, just like Hugh, Lady Wainwright’s eldest son. However, according to David’s letter he has been held captive in a Russian Prisoner of War camp for many years and now he wants to come home! Christopher, knowing David and Hugh are Lady Wainwright’s favorites, is thrilled by this news. But the same can’t be said about David’s two surviving brothers. Stephen and Miles are convinced David is an impostor after their inheritance. So they intercept Lady Wainwright’s invitation and replace it with their own letter in an attempt to buy “David” off. Learning this bewilders Christopher. But David arrives anyway, and immediately gets accepted by Lady Wainwright as her long-lost son!

Instead of being a happy reunion, David’s homecoming creates a hostile atmosphere in Belting. Even Christopher’s initial inclination to remain impartial goes out of the window when David fails a few tests given to him! So Christopher decides to help Stephen and Miles to get to the bottom of this, and what follows is an intriguing tale of amateur sleuthing.

According to Martin Edward’s introduction, The Belting Inheritance has been inspired by the Tichborne case. So the crime component in this novel is quite thrilling. The life and attitudes of upper-class characters in a small English town during the post-war years when the financial decline of England’s aristocracy had begun, are also shown realistically. All these make The Belting Inheritance a pleasant read, even though I wish the final denouement had taken place in Belting instead of Paris (because I have a penchant for country house mysteries. Check Thirteen Guests for a good British manor mystery). I give The Belting Inheritance three stars, and especially recommend it to crime readers who enjoy puns and wordplay – there’s a decent amount of witticisms in here, so you’ll love it!

Note: Many thanks to British Library Publishing for sending me a review copy of The Belting Inheritance

One comment

  1. Another great review. This book sounds so good.


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