Brighton Belle: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan
|Brighton Belle: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan
|Category: Crime (Historical)
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
|Summary: The war is over and Mirabelle Bevan, ex-Secret Service, has moved to Brighton. Her secretarial work for a debt collection agency seems simple enough until she comes across a suspicious case and decides to use her war-time skills to investigate further.
|Date: April 2012
1951 is a year still in the shadow of the war. Food is rationed but clothing is more readily available and Mirabelle is an elegant and sophisticated woman. She worked in intelligence during the war and in the build-up to Nuremberg, rather than in the field, but since the death of her lover, all she has wanted to do is flee her past life and forget. She finds herself a quiet, undemanding job far away from London and all her old acquaintances, and for two years she leads an unexceptional life. But one day when her boss is absent she is asked to collect a debt from Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee who has moved to the coast to have her baby. She soon finds that the facts about the woman do not add up, and she cannot resist doing a little detective work to find out the truth. Using her old Secret Service skills gives her the jolt she needs to move on from her grief, and despite the risks, her cloak-and-dagger strategies and planning make her feel more alive than she has for a couple of years. She is joined in her investigations by a young insurance clerk from the office down the hall, and between them, they uncover a complex and deadly plot which involves the war, several corpses, a betting scam and a prostitution ring.
Mirabelle Bevan is an intriguing and likeable heroine. She had an exciting war, and working in intelligence meant her competence, quick mind and ability to organise were given free rein. She rarely did any active spying, but she knew all the theory and had even written some of the manuals for her team. At the same time, she fell madly in love with a married man who fully intended to divorce his wife after the war so he could marry her, but when he died suddenly of a heart attack she shut down and sought a life which would make as few demands on her emotions as possible. Nonetheless, the old Mirabelle is still there, shown by the way she carefully observes and times the beach attendant's routines in order to avoid paying for her deckchair, and she remains a rounded and human character even at her lowest point - particularly in her baffling approach to the maintenance of the office pot plant.
The call to action comes at just the right time for her, and even more fortuitous is the fact that she gets to know Vesta Churchill, a friendly young woman with a penchant for chocolate biscuits, who readily joins her in her investigation. The book is full of details of fifties dress, food and décor, and the casual cruelty many people show Vesta, who is black, is lightly but tellingly depicted. Mirabelle is outraged at the things people say to her friend, but Vesta is philosophical and refuses to allow it to get her down. The contrast between the young, light-hearted Vesta and the older, clever Mirabelle is a real strength in their relationship.
This book is the first in a series of twelve, which run through the fifties and show the way people celebrated the end of hostilities and coped with the austerities of post-war Britain. It is a light and pleasant read with plenty of colour and action and will engage the reader from the first page to the last. Highly recommended.
This book is written in a gentler style than you will find with most contemporary female detectives – almost but not quite cosy. Imagine The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (plus Nazis), set in an English seaside resort, or Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich without the sex and most of the comedy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Brighton Belle: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Brighton Belle: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan at Amazon.com.
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