Say British in Kenya and you either think of the Mau Mau uprising or of the fabled, if louche, Happy Valley Set. I’ve long been fascinated by the British Aristocracy, even while grateful as an American to be done with it, so this book was just my thing!
It sounds like an Agatha Christie, doesn’t it: Murder at the Muthaiga Club! Well, it gets better than that. The main men are named “Delves” and “Josslyn,” if you please! The cast of characters includes a woman compared to Wallis Simpson (and neither one is seen in a good light), the uncle of the then Duchess of Gloucester (sister-in-law to King George VI, married to the Prince [Henry] Harry of the WWI generation) and lost of waste-space ne’er-do-well chinless wonders who couldn’t stand the idea of getting a job back in England. Many of the men were second, third, or even fourth sons who would never inherit a Pound Sterling or a parcel of land unless left to them by a Godfather. And, with England at war again, who wanted to be shot at? They hid in Kenya.
So while this crew was drinking themselves slowly to death and engaging in yet another hilariously funny round of “Are You There, Moriarty?” after a nice slap and tickle with each others’ spouses, someone murdered old Joss who was carrying on with Delves’ much younger wife, named…what else?….Diana! (A wife he’d promised to release from matrimony if she fell for a young man–I told you they were an odd bunch, didn’t I).
The second half of the book is a years-later examination of the trial and the verdict and all the evidence. Oh, and Cyril Connolly is involved. Yes. Indeed. People get tracked down in their dotage and asked about what went on back in the day at the Club and all. Most have destroyed too many brain cells to remember so trot it out the way they’ve told it at dinner parties for the last few decades, truth be damned.
Sir Jock Delves Broughton and Lady Broughton, the former Diana Caldwell
This was not nearly as interesting as I had hoped it would be. It wasn’t boring or bad, just not that exciting. I haven’t seen the movie, but I think, for once, I’d recommend just watching it and reading the Wipidedia entries on the famous faces. (See below for the movie link on youtube.)
White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll by James Fox
For more on the Happy Valley Set:
The Bolter by Frances Osborne
The Movie White Mischief
Altitude, Alcohol and Adultery About the book, the story, the movie–all of it.