A Messy Affair by Elizabeth Mundy – multicultural London, reality TV and murder with humour


“The Only Way is Murder” is a subtitle to this book, which itself neatly encapsulates what this book is all about. The suspicious death of reality TV star Terry is soon seen as being far more like murder to Lena the Hungarian super cleaner and unofficial detective. She has started her own business cleaning and catering for clients in her part of contemporary London, and she employs friends and relatives who have also arrived from European countries. In two previous novels she has become unwillingly involved in the detection of cases which have involved her friends, and she is seriously attracted to PC Cartwright, an ambitious young police officer. This is a standalone book which can definitely be read alone, as Mundy does a good job of introducing the characters and snippets about their past. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this super quirky book. 


Lena is frustrated by her cousin Sarika who has met and started an impassioned  relationship with Terry, a star of a reality based tv show similar to “Made in Chelsea”. Despite the programme depicting an on and off romance in which Terry is involved with Marsela, Sarika is so convinced that she and Terry have a future that she arranges a date for Lena with one of Terry’s co stars, Raz. Everything would be manageable, except that both Sarika and Terry have received threatening notes. As Lena begins to learn about the series “N1 Angels” from one of her favourite clients, Mrs Kingston, reports of Terry’s death begin to circulate. Lena is convinced that his murderer is not only connected to Terry’s exciting romantic and complicated life, but also fears for her cousin’s safety. Quickly she is plunged into a complex world of troublesome clients, well known criminals and television celebrities. While she cleans and tries to spend time with the attractive Cartwright, while keeping an eye on her excitable cousin, she tries out various theories which can get very confusing. 


This is an extremely well written murder mystery set amongst a convincing contemporary world of women who are trying to survive and thrive by whatever means available. The men are not always the quickest on the uptake, and it is often up to Lena to sort out their problems. There is a very strong element of humour as Lena tries to sort out the possible interconnections between her cleaning jobs, her love life and the celebrities who seem to pop up around her. The narrative is well written with a complex plot which draws in the many characters. The dialogue and indeed Lena’s speech is distinctive as she struggles to cope with the English idioms and phrases. Her near compulsion to clean and tidy is a strong plot device as it means that she discovers many significant things about her suspects as she sorts out their homes and businesses. I really enjoyed the mixture of black humour, thriller and murder mystery, whether it is a set piece like a meeting at a skating rink, or a funeral reception with ambitious young women. I recommend this as an entertaining read with an underlying theme of the multicultural nature of London, the nature of instant celebrity, and the truth of those who clean and sort out the lives of others.