Lena Aldridge is wondering if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho and her married lover has just left her. She has nothing to look forward to until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York.
After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. Until death follows her onto the ship and she realises that her greatest performance has already begun.
Because someone is making manoeuvres behind the scenes, and there’s only one thing on their mind…
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Set in the classic age of murder mystery, the Atlantic crossing aboard a luxury liner provides the setting for a locked room mystery. The murder mystery is only one aspect of this multilayered novel that explores the social history of the time evocatively, mainly centring on class, politics, and race.
Lena’s career has not developed despite her obvious talent and tenacity. London in 1936 is rife with prejudice and extreme politics making Lena’s position precarious. An offer of a role in New York comes at the right time. Possibly implicated in a murder leaving town seems the best option for Lena. Life on the luxury liner is not what she imagined as beneath the glamour, danger, deceit, and depravity simmer, waiting to destroy her.
I like how the social-historical issues explored give this story a literary fiction feel. Interwoven with the well-written classical murder mystery, it has depth and originality that resonates.
Summer 1933. Fresh from the discovery that she has family living nearby, Kitty Underhay has packed her carpet bag, commandeered a chambermaid and set off on a visit to stately Enderley Hall. She’s looking forward to getting to know her relatives, as well as the assembled group of house guests. But when elderly Nanny Thoms is found dead at the bottom of the stairs after papers of national importance are stolen, Kitty quickly learns that Muffy the dog’s muddy paws on her hemline are the least of her problems.
Calling on ex-army captain Matthew Bryant for assistance, Kitty begins to puzzle out the mystery. And when more shocking murders follow, the stakes are raised for the daring duo as never before. Which of the guests stand to gain from the theft of the documents? And which, as the week progresses, stand to lose their lives?
A charming cozy historical murder mystery that fans of Agatha Christie,
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second book in the Miss Underhay mysteries lives up to the promise of Murder At The Dolphin Hotel. Kitty accepts an invitation to stay with her newly discovered family not sure if she’ll fit into their upper-class society.
The upstairs-downstairs ethos adds ambience to the historical setting with the sharp class divide evident to Kitty. Theft leads to a suspicious death, and Kitty calls her partner Matthew to help the police investigate. Kitty’s overt role in the investigation is subservient in keeping with the era, but her intelligence and perception make her the star player.
Kitty stumbles upon further clues to her mother’s disapperance with dangerous consequences. Courageous and a little foolhardy, she takes risks to solve the case.
Kitty is an engaging amateur sleuth in a historically authentic murder mystery.
This wonderful new book in the bestselling The Mitford Murders series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.
The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era.
But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart…
I received a copy of this book from Little Brown Books UK – Sphere via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is book three in ‘The Mitford Murders’, series and the first one I have read. I had no trouble accustoming myself to the era and the characters and found it an engaging read. An intelligent mix of historical characters with a believable fictional story, spiced up with historical facts, to make it read authentically.
The hedonist, volatile ethos of England between the two world wars is captured perfectly. The reverence of artists, in all forms, is evident. The mix of old and new money, alongside the bohemian stars of this historical period, provides the quintessential setting for crime, romance and scandal.
The story unfolds through Louisa’s point of view, she knows the Mitford family well, and currently works as a lady’s maid for Diana Mitford. An amateur sleuth, she soon realises that some of the incidents she witnesses are more sinister than they superficially appear.
As the story progresses over a realistic period, the suspense builds, and there are also menacing moments, where Louisa faces dangers head-on. Louisa is ambitious, but like many women of her class, finds fulfilling her full potential almost impossible, hampered by not only her gender but also her social standing.
The fallout of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the subsequent economic depression, allows extreme political views to gain momentum both in England and Europe. The story reflects this well, and this adds another sinister element to the story.
The conclusion to the murder mystery ties up the clues in a satisfying way. Leaving, the reader waiting eagerly to see what will happen to the Mitfords next.
June 1933. Independent young Kitty Underhay has been left in charge of her family’s hotel, The Dolphin, on the tranquil English coast. She’s expecting her days at the bustling resort to be filled with comfortable chatter with chambermaids as they polish the mahogany desks and glittering candelabras of the elegant foyer. Everything must be perfect for the arrival of a glamorous jazz singer from Chicago and a masked ball that will be the cultural highlight of the season.
But when several rooms are broken into and searched, including Kitty’s own, she quickly realises that something out of the ordinary is afoot at the hotel. Soon rumours are flying in the cozy town that someone is on the hunt for a stolen ruby. A ruby that Kitty’s mother may well have possessed when she herself went missing during the Great War. And when the break-ins are followed by a series of attacks and murders, including of the town’s former mayoress, it seems the perpetrator will stop at nothing to find it.
Aided by ex-army captain Matthew Bryant, the Dolphin’s new security officer, Kitty is determined to decipher this mystery and preserve not only the reputation of her hotel but also the lives of her guests. Is there a cold-blooded killer under her own roof? And what connects the missing jewel to the mystery from Kitty’s own past?
A classic page-turning murder mystery!
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This murder mystery has a lovely sense of place and time. Dartmouth, Devon is a picturesque setting, and particularly atmospheric during the post-war period. The hotel is well described and easy to visualise, as are the cast of characters. The connection with Kitty’s past that this first mystery, in the series has, gives the story added depth and draws the reader into Kitty’s world.
Kitty is a complex, courageous character, who is easy to like. Her intelligence tempered by an innate naivety makes her the perfect heroine for this type of historical cozy mystery.Matt her partner in amateur sleuthing, has a complex and poignant past, which makes him an enigmatic puzzle, Kitty is eager to solve.
The mystery unwinds with many twists, suspects and murders. The relationship between Kitty and Matt strengthens, in part due to proximity and mutual neediness. You want them to overcome their emotional barriers and let their relationship develop.
The suspense develops well as the story progresses reaching a crescendo when Kitty’s natural curiosity leads her into danger.The ending is exciting and in keeping with the historical period. Part of the mystery remains unsolved, presumably to be revealed as the series progresses.
An easy to read a historical murder mystery, written in a cozy mystery style, which immerses you in the 1930s Devon, with authentic, complex characters and an engaging plot.
Frances Black leaves her domestic worries behind and travels to Devon to solve a family mystery featuring a suspicious death and a missing diamond.
1930. Frances Black is worried – divorce proceedings are underway and her solicitor has learnt of a spiteful letter sent to the court claiming that there is more to her friendship with her sleuthing partner, Tom Dod than meets the eye.
Fran takes Tom’s advice to get away, travelling down to Devon to help the Edgertons with their family mystery. After meeting the charismatic Eddie Edgerton and arriving at their residence, Sunnyside House, Fran soon learns that Eddie’s grandfather, Frederick Edgerton, died in mysterious circumstances when his wheelchair went off a cliff. Was it really an accident? And what happened to Frederick’s precious diamond which went missing at the time of his death? As Fran investigates, she uncovers family scandal, skulduggery and revenge, but can she solve the mystery of the missing diamond?
I received a copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley in return for an honest review
This is the third book in the Black and Dod mystery series, and the first I’ve read. This book reads as a standalone, The mystery is solved within the pages of this story, but I did feel I was missing out on the connection between the two main characters.
This story puts one half of the sleuthing duo at the helm. Frances heads to Devon, to avoid jeopardising her long-awaited and much-needed divorce and becomes a temporary house guest at a lovely country house in Devon. The 1930s setting and the upper-class elegance puts you in mind of Agatha Christie’s novels.
The family are mostly charming, and Fran finds she is the subject of one family member’s admiration. The mystery is two-fold, auspiciously she is invited to solve the riddle of the missing diamond, but a recent death occurred at the same time and she questions whether the two are connected.
I found the pacing a little slow, but the mystery is clever, and there is darkness hiding beneath the household’s lighthearted ethos, which gives the story depth. If possible read the series in order, and you will become familiar with the writing style and pace.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What appeals about this story is its commitment and honesty. Georgina is a relatable, remarkable, yet ruthless character, who you would want on your side. Her love for her family and friends shines through, even though she commits and sanctions unspeakable acts as the head of a south London crime gang in the 1930s.
When her newly acquired gangland empire is under threat from men who think she should know her place, she only has one response; be better than them, and fight back. She symbolises the female fight for equality. The crimes are gritty, but the story is one of family, and this is why the protagonists are likeable.
A clever plot with plenty of depth and hidden twists complements the complexcharacters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.
Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman
was born and bred in London and then lived in Surrey, Kent and Hampshire before
moving to Spain four years ago. It was here that I found I had the time to take
up writing. So, after lots of encouragement from my husband and mum, I sat on
my sofa and penned my first novel, Trickster.
probably imagine that living in a sunny climate is inspirational and blissful
for a writer but I doubt it’s anything like you might picture. There’s no
sitting in the sun, sipping sangria and dipping in the pool. It’s impossible to
use my laptop outside because I can’t see the screen. So instead, I sit at my
new desk in my spare bedroom with a ceiling fan on and the shutters closed.
It’s so peaceful and this is where I wrote my second novel, Rivals, the follow
up to Trickster.
a series of five books has been such an interesting journey. Normally, after a
novel is completed and published, the author will leave the characters behind
and move on to the next story. But with mine, I’ve had the wonderful
opportunity to delve deep into Georgina’s Garrett’s life from birth, growing up
and into adulthood. When I’d finished Trickster and started writing Rivals, I
was so excited to meet Georgina again and couldn’t wait to move her character
on through her complex life.
came about as I was driving with my hubby. I remember turning to him and
saying, ‘Georgina Garrett, the birth of a ruthless woman.’ She started off as
just a short single scene in my head – A young woman, beautiful, tough and on
the wrong side of the law. I could see her eyes, hair and the shape of her
body. I knew when she was born and that she’d had many struggles to overcome.
In the scene, Georgina was dressed as a boy and was thieving with her father.
For the rest of the drive with hubby, I blurted out the whole story, from the
day WW1 was declared and the birth of Georgina until she came to rule the
streets of Battersea.
hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.
I began typing, I found Georgina’s character changed slightly. I gave her more
of a heart and made her more caring. After all, I wanted my potential readers
to love her as much as I did! And I found that once the book was finished, I
missed her. So I was keen to get on with writing Rivals and now I’m almost
finished writing the third in the series.
so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with
you in the coming books!
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. FacebookTwitter
As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?
Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance.
Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has
always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie
Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for
But soon the railway is forced to close and a
terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any
hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…
Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous
marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset
to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the
restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket
office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that
changed his life forever.
But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes
Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’ve read most of this author’s timeslip novels, and they keep getting better in terms of mysteries to be solved, emotional, poignant life journeys to be explored, and believable characters that you empathise with from the first page. The genealogy connection between the past and present is always cleverly done and is the author’s unique selling point, something that makes her stories both engaging and original.
Both Ted and Tilly’s stories are very emotional and poignant, Ted’s tragic love story in the 1930s is particularly touching, his honesty and simplicity make him vulnerable, and whilst you empathise with him, you are also horrified by others manipulation of his innocence. Tilly is also on a knife-edge, after the abusive behaviour of her husband, whose lack of compassion is horrifying. Her emotional recovery with the help of her father Ken and friend Jo is heartwarming, and the railway restoration society plays its part too and connects the past and present in a believable, interesting way.
The story is complex but easy reading, as it slips convincingly and effortlessly from the present to the past. Connections are made, clues given, with insights into the time and place, moving the story on, but letting the reader enjoy the experience.
The perfect escape, which will appeal to a wide audience who like genealogy, history, mystery and romance.
Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. She has two
sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career
creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and
Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led
eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been
fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the
present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.
Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring.
When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ, he is welcomed into her inner circle – the Happy Valley set – rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles.
Yet behind Sylvie’s intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman – before it is too late.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Theo moves to Kenya with his father, an engineer, who was instrumental in pioneering the railway in the colonial world. Now a director, he is to establish a rail network in Kenya in the late 1920s. Theo adores his younger sister, but has a difficult, bordering on an abusive relationship with his mother, who is much younger than his father.
The colonial establishment in Africa is well described in this story, as is the political unrest and the rise of right-wing nationalism, in the mid to late 1930s. The main focus of the story against this tumultuous setting of privilege and political unrest is the ‘Happy Valley set.’
They are rather like the spoilt, immoral group of people, in ”The Great Gatsby, only in Africa, rather than America. After the horrors of the ‘Great War’, and the financial crisis of the late 1920s, this hedonist group, who disdain society’s rules, and live for the moment, have an obvious appeal for a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. His work absorbed father, and seemingly uncaring mother, allow Theo to the freedom to be influenced by this group, which has a tragic effect on his teenage and future life.
The story is rich in historical details and full of vivid imagery, both in terms of the African setting and the clash of colonialism and nationalism. It is complex and absorbing and the characters resonate. Most are emotionally damaged and have dark natures, but even so, you are invested and want to know what happens to them.
Maud is the most courageous of all the characters and is a true pioneer, willing to break through barriers even at the risk of her own comfort and safety.
The story portrays the fear, prejudice and unrest in Africa, during the 1930s well. It is not easy to read in parts, because it jars with 21st-century beliefs and norms, but if you can accept this, it is a worthwhile read.
London, 1936. Inside the spectacular Grand Ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them, captivate them, and sweep away their cares.
Accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.
Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small hometown. She dreams of joining the dancers on the ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and hidden doorways. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…
The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glitz and glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets.
A delicious, detailed, dance orientated novel, which unfolds against a background of class division, an unprecedented threat to the monarchy and a cosmopolitan hotel whose outward glamour hides a web of secrets.
The characters are believable and vividly depicted, they draw the reader into the story and engender empathy and dislike according to their behaviour. The setting epitomises polite London society in the 1930s. The ballroom’s importance, as a place to see and be seen, is a core theme of this story and is the focal point for the action and dialogue between the main characters.
Like ‘Upstairs Downstairs ‘ and ‘Downtown Abbey’, society’s class division is marked. The ‘lower class’ characters’lives are difficult and provide a thought-provoking reminder of poverty and hardship.
The political unrest in Europe and England make living life the limit a given, for those able to do so. When secrets unfold and people’s livelihood and reputations are in danger, the true heroes and villains emerge.
I received a copy of this book from Zaffre via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…
Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.
Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?
Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.
Back at Central Police Station, the detectives’ room was empty save for Strachan and Danilov. The rest of the squad, or what remained of them after the Shanghai Volunteers had decimated the ranks, were at lunch, on patrol or simply avoiding work with all the professionalism of the accomplished loafer.
Strachan was hunched over the missing persons file, while Danilov was busy sending smoke rings up to the kippered ceiling, where they hung floating in the air before gradually dissipating like a wastrel’s fortune.
‘Why was the ear removed, Strachan?’
The detective sergeant knew better than to speak now. Danilov was only turning the problem over in his mind; he didn’t require a response.
‘And why slash the face but leave the birthmark? If anything identifies him, it is the mark.’ Another stream of smoke rose to the ceiling. ‘We need to go back to where the body was found.’
It was Danilov’s belief that a crime scene yielded as much information about the killer as the body itself.
‘There’s no time like the present.’ He stubbed the cigarette out in the empty ashtray and adjusted the lamp over his desk so it was at exactly forty-five degrees. Anything less or more would be a distraction. ‘Have you found him yet in missing persons?’
‘Nothing so far. He might not live in the International Settlement.’
‘From the French Concession?’
‘Or any of the Chinese areas along the border: Chapei, Siccawei, Nantao, Hung Tsung.’
‘Hmm, but why risk transporting him? With all the recent tensions, the Volunteers are manning roadblocks at all the major crossing points.’ Danilov shook his head. ‘No, he came from the International Settlement. Too risky to move him around. Keep looking; you might want to check the Criminal Intelligence files too.’
‘I always thought Criminal Intelligence was the wrong name for the division. Criminals lack intelligence. That is precisely why we are able to catch them.’
‘An oxymoron, sir.’
‘A what, Strachan?’
‘A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear next to each other, like “the young couple were alone together”.’
‘You’re spending too much time with my daughter, Strachan.’
The detective sergeant smiled at the thought. ‘I’m enjoying helping her with her English literature degree. We’re reading Jane Austen at the moment. I didn’t know a—’
He was interrupted by a knock on the glass that separated the detectives’ room from the rest of the station. A small, round woman entered.
‘Inspector Danilov, the chief will see you now.’ She lowered her voice. ‘He has five minutes, fitting you in between a committee on the uniforms of Sikh policemen and a meeting about the new filing system for criminal records. I’d hurry if I were you.’
‘Thank you, Miss Cavendish. I’ll come right away.’
The inspector stood up from his chair, feeling the ache in his knees. Winters were the devil to him, bringing back old pains he thought he’d left behind.
‘The chief inspector is in a jolly good mood today. They’ve approved his proposal on overtime pay for ancillary staff.’
‘Does that mean you will receive more money, Miss Cavendish?’ asked Strachan.
‘Less, actually. He’s removing all allowances. No more overtime pay, no more travel expenses, no more meal allowances. I don’t know when these budget cuts are going to stop.’
‘It’s what President Hoover calls the Great Depression, Miss Cavendish.’
‘Another oxymoron, Strachan?’
Miss Cavendish’s right eyebrow rose. ‘An oxy what?’
‘Don’t ask. My detective sergeant will have you reading Jane Austen next.’ Danilov put on his jacket. ‘While I’m gone, Strachan, ask around the station, see if anybody has heard anything about any kidnappings recently.’
‘Kidnappings, sir? Why?’
Danilov tapped the side of his beak-like nose. ‘A hunch. Back in 1912, when I was in London… ’
‘And I was in school.’
‘Thank you, Strachan, for reminding me of your youth and inexperience. As I was saying, back in 1912, there was a gang of kidnappers operating in Poplar who encouraged the families of their victims to pay up by sending them a severed ear. It invariably concentrated their minds as they haggled over the price.’
He turned to go.
‘Did you catch them, sir?’
‘Of course. Like all criminals, they became greedy. Demanding money once too often and removing far too many ears.’
Miss Cavendish tapped her watch. ‘The chief inspector is waiting.’
‘I’ll ask around, sir.’
‘And don’t forget to chase the report. I want it on my desk by the time I’ve finished with the chief inspector.’
Danilov followed Miss Cavendish down the corridor to Chief Inspector Rock’s room.
‘I could ask around for you too, Inspector. People tell me things; I don’t know why,’ said the elderly woman over her shoulder.
‘People do it because you are an excellent listener, Miss Cavendish, with a capacity for gossip that puts Catherine the Great to shame.’
They both stopped in front of the chief inspector’s door.
Miss Cavendish played with the rope of pearls that surrounded a roll of fat on her neck. ‘You do say the nicest things, Inspector. But I’ll ask anyway.’
A loud ‘Come!’ from inside.
‘Into the dragon’s den. Good luck,’ she whispered, opening the door. ‘Inspector Danilov as you requested, Chief Inspector.’
‘Thank you, Miss Cavendish. Do come in, Danilov, and take a seat. I won’t be a moment.’
Shanghai in the 1930’s was a tinderbox, and this story captures this ethos perfectly. Japan’s annexation of Manchuria created additional tension between the Chinese and Japanese populations within Shanghai, and it’s against this setting the fourth Inspector Danilov tale takes place.
Dark and tragic crimes are the central theme of this story, and the child murders are difficult to read. Trying to solve them forces Inspector Danilov to confront his demons and personal tragedies. As this is the fourth book in the series, undoubtedly the reader has already learnt a great deal about Danilov and his colleagues and family in the previous books.
Authentic Danilov’s idiosyncrasies make him easy to like, he is the typical smart, driven detective, whose career is his life often to the detriment of his family and health. The plot has twists, and the pacing varies with the action. A little slow in the first few chapters, it gains motivation as the plot becomes convoluted.
As a standalone, read it is good, but it would be even better if you’d read the previous books in the series. This disturbing story has an evocative setting, enigmatic detective and exciting political theme, making it an absorbing read.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.
While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he was George Clooney.