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Roberts, David 1944-

Roberts, David 1944-


Born 1944; married.


Agent—The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd., 17 Sutherland St., London SW1V 4JU, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Former editor for publishing company Chatto & Windus; former editorial director, Weidenfeld & Nicolson; former partner, Michael O'Mara Books; full-time writer, 2000—.



Sweet Poison, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.

Bones of the Buried, Constable (London, England), 2001.

Hollow Crown, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.

Dangerous Sea, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.

The More Deceived, Constable (London, England), 2004.

A Grave Man, Constable (London, England), 2005.

The Quality of Mercy, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2006.


David Roberts's mystery series featuring English nobleman Lord Edward Corinth and communist journalist Verity Brown has frequently been compared to the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers. Set in the 1930s, the novels mix mystery and political intrigue with the burgeoning romance between seemingly opposite personalities. The romance and banter between Edward and Verity add some levity to the stories. Critics often compliment the author on his ability to capture the angst of the time, as well as the attitudes of England's upper class, in a world increasingly threatened by the rising Nazi menace.

The main characters are introduced in Sweet Poison. The year is 1935, and when an English general, the Duke of Mersham, is poisoned at a dinner party, there are many suspects. Among them are a German diplomat and an Englishman who held the victim responsible for his brother's death in World War I. Edward happens to be the duke's younger brother, and he sets out to find the killer, aided by reporter Brown. "Readers waiting for another Christie redux will find great pleasure in this thoroughly enjoyable first novel," predicted George Needham in Booklist, while Rex E. Klett declared it a "finely tuned historical" in his Library Journal review.

Brown is in Spain during the months before the civil war there in Bones of the Buried, and she contacts Corinth for help when a fellow communist—and former lover—David Griffiths-Jones is imprisoned on false murder charges. While Lord Edward quickly shows that the accused is innocent, he later suspects connections between the deaths of several Eton alumni, including the man Griffiths-Jones had supposedly murdered. "Not much for Verity to do here except be duped," remarked a Kirkus Reviews writer, "but Roberts provides a solid primer on Eton society." Although a Publishers Weekly critic called the tale "intriguing," the reviewer felt that "a few logical inconsistencies … undercut a compelling histori- cal." Booklist contributor David Pitt, however, complimented the author's accurate historical detail in a novel "ideal for fans of politically charged period yarns."

With Hollow Crown and Dangerous Sea, critics found Roberts achieving his stride. Lord Edward's skills are increasingly being sought after by England's Foreign Office for various sensitive matters, and with Hollow Crown, the sensitive materials are potentially embarrassing love letters written by King Edward VIII. In Dangerous Sea, he is asked to help protect Lord Benyon during a sea voyage. Naturally, mysterious murders occur in both books that Edward must deal with, and Verity lends her aid, as well. With Hollow Crown, a Publishers Weekly critic complimented the "telling period detail and an intelligent portrayal of the political issues behind the Abdication Crisis." The romance between Edward and Verity, whose attraction for one another intermittently outweighs their political differences, finally achieves consummation in a book that is a "solid entry in [Roberts's] stylish cozy series," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Roberts occasionally brings real historical people into his novels, as he does in The More Deceived, in which Winston Churchill makes an appearance. Verity, unfortunately, does not like Churchill at first, a fact that causes a rift in her relationship with Edward. In later installments, however, the famous British leader begins to grow on her, despite her views on politics. Meanwhile, The More Deceived has Lord Edward helping the Foreign Office investigate sources providing Churchill with information about the Nazis. Killings within the Foreign Office set off an investigation in this "cleverly plotted whodunnit," remarked Margaret Flanagan in Booklist, who also called Edward and Verity "two charming romantic foils." "Roberts adroitly combines engaging lessons on the politics of the day with a compelling, well-paced story," reported a Publishers Weekly critic.

Attention turns increasingly from the war in Spain to Nazi Germany with A Grave Man and The Quality of Mercy. Some critics of these novels felt that Roberts struggles a bit with his characters, who are having trouble with their relationship in A Grave Man. A number of reviewers also believed that overly complicated plotting in the novel proves problematic. The former mystery has the pair investigating the murder of a famous archaeologist, while in The Quality of Mercy, they each aid in the escape of Jewish refugees from the impending invasion of Austria by Germany. A Publishers Weekly writer remarked that in A Grave Man, "Roberts does a fine job of elucidating the politics of the period," but the souring relationship between the main characters "puts a definite damper" on the story. A Kirkus Reviews contributor considered all the political intrigue "a little too complicated" but in this case felt that the "sleuths complement each other well." Michele Leber asserted in the Library Journal, though, that A Grave Man is "just the ticket for Dorothy Sayers fans." Reviewing The Quality of Mercy, a Publishers Weekly contributor reported that this seventh installment "falls short of the high standard" of the previous books, but that the carefully described setting "adds luster to the story." Sarah Abel, writing for Shots Magazine, went further, stating that "David Roberts weaves an abundance of historical detail into his story giving the reader a rich flavour of a world on the edge of war," and that "The Quality of Mercy is a substantial, intelligent read peppered with artistic references, literary quotes and fascinating snippets of history."



Booklist, May 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Sweet Poison, p. 1599; November 15, 2000, review of Sweet Poison, p. 623; September 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Bones of the Buried, p. 200; November 15, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of The More Deceived, p. 566; November 15, 2006, Steve Weinberg, review of The Quality of Mercy, p. 36.

Drood Review of Mystery, November 1, 2000, review of Sweet Poison, p. 18.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of Bones of the Buried, p. 1172; November 15, 2002, review of Hollow Crown, p. 1660; October 15, 2003, review of Dangerous Sea, p. 1255; November 1, 2005, review of A Grave Man, p. 1166; October 15, 2006, review of The Quality of Mercy, p. 1049.

Library Journal, December 1, 2000, Rex Klett, review of Sweet Poison, p. 195; November 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of The More Deceived, p. 62; December 1, 2005, Michele Leber, review of A Grave Man, p. 103.

Publishers Weekly, September 3, 2001, review of Bones of the Buried, p. 66; December 16, 2002, review of Hollow Crown, p. 48; November 24, 2003, review of Dangerous Sea, p. 45; October 11, 2004, review of More Deceived, p. 59; November 14, 2005, review of A Grave Man, p. 48; October 16, 2006, review of The Quality of Mercy, p. 37.

Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2000, review of Sweet Poison, p. 175.


Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Web site, (April 1, 2006), description of David Roberts's detective series and brief biography of the author.

Shots Magazine Online, (October 1, 2006), Sarah Abel, review of The Quality of Mercy; (November 1, 2006), Catherine Hunt, review of A Grave Man.

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