London Calling: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan
|London Calling: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: It is 1952 and Britain is slowly recovering from World War Two. Jazz is in the air, but the desire for frenzied pleasure and extravagance clashes with the constraints of rationing. When a girl goes missing, a young black musician is accused of her abduction and murder. Is he really guilty, or is this just one more example of the casual and overt racism of the time?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2013|
|Publisher: Polygon Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Mirabelle Bevan is an intriguing character. Warm, resourceful and extremely clever, she spent her war years in intelligence (though not active duty) and then, as the war ended and her long-time lover died, she withdrew to the coast and the dubious joys of running a debt-collection agency. Accidentally getting involved in solving a major crime with her vibrant young companion Vesta gets her noticed, however, and it isn't long before she finds herself knee-deep in another mystery. A childhood friend flees London and an accusation of murder to beg Vesta and her employer to help him prove his innocence. This leads the intrepid pair into the world of smoky, music-filled basements and the black market, where they encounter criminals from all across the social spectrum.
Mirabelle and Vesta are the stars of the series, but the Fifties plays such a large part in both mood and events that it could almost be considered a character in its own right. The war has ended but rationing continues, and Mirabelle's surprise and delight at seeing a generous pat of butter and a real egg, laid by a real hen, on her breakfast table is telling. Her courageous feats of derring-do are balanced by her regret at tearing her stockings — where will she find the coupons to get another pair? — and her trips to London in pursuit of the truth are coloured by descriptions of places where rebuilding has yet to begin after the bombing. The old world of the clubs and the rich, who somehow manage to get hold of pre-war luxuries with little or no effort, is contrasted with the generous affection of Vesta's family and friends who share what little they have in times of joy and grief without restraint, and the desperate pursuit of novelty is the trademark of a generation who grew up at a time when life was cheap and short.
Mirabelle is brave and determined, and she has her experience in the Secret Service to guide her, in theory at least, but she is for all that an ordinary woman in a world still dominated by men. All her resourcefulness and ability to apply the guidelines in the manuals she herself helped to write don't stop her getting injured (or ruining the afore-mentioned stockings) which makes her all the easier to identify with. She has no super powers, no extraordinary abilities or gifts, and the contacts from the past she is able to call upon are at best shady and unreliable. She stumbles into a world which is still, in some ways, at war, where a death can be considered expedient rather than tragic and where prejudice and racism are the norm. She is educated and intelligent, and the author expects the reader to be so too: real post-war events are referenced with only the minimum of explanation, and contemporary details (like the fact that Vesta's father calls her his little swan) are dropped into the text for the attentive reader to discover. The research is impeccable but lightly served throughout.
Fans of Mirabelle and Vesta will be glad to hear that an extensive series of their adventures are planned, spanning the whole of the Fifties. And while there is no mawkish, happy-ever-after ending here, there is a gentle hint that maybe, despite the still-present shadow of war and death, our two heroines are staring on the road to happiness. It couldn't happen to a nicer pair.
You could read this book without the first in the series, Brighton Belle: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery, but it would be a pity. The characters, already portrayed in depth here, are even more vivid if you know how they met.
You can read more book reviews or buy London Calling: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy London Calling: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan at Amazon.com.
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