She Be Damned by M J Tjia

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She Be Damned by M J Tjia

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A romping adventure set in Victorian England, She Be Damned is a clever crime thriller that's elevated by fantastic characters in a well paced plot
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: August 2017
Publisher: Legend Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785079313

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London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim. The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate. With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider whom she can trust, before the killer strikes again.

A Victorian murder mystery with a plucky, headstrong prostitute braving the dangerous streets in order to find the killer and rescue her friends. It doesn't take much more than that to sell me on a book, so I picked up She Be Damned ready to curl up for a night of adventure and excitement. Does it deliver? Most definitely. Author MK Tjia sweeps the reader up into her world within moments – the dark, grubby streets of Victorian London brought to life in descriptive, well paced sentences that pull the reader in, keeping them hooked by providing them with cleverly drawn characters and a hugely compelling romp of a plot. The reader sees the story through the eyes of both Heloise and her assistant Amah Li Leen, allowing the author to play with the reader's view of the narrator somewhat and introducing an air of unpredictability that leads to some excellent twists later on.

There's always the danger that a book focusing on the murder of prostitutes could fall into a rather misogynistic hole, but Tjia avoids this with skill. Having the lead character be a former prostitute allows her a certain amount of insight into the lives of the girls killed, and even the shortest life is imbued with humanity and dignity from the author, preventing this from becoming a book that relies on cheap shocks to thrill the reader. In fact, both Heloise and Amah Li Leen are characters years ahead of her time – independent, strong-willed and fully in charge of their own agendas, yet fitting well into the world which Tjia has created – one in which men hold the positions of power, but where behind every man there are several strong women.

Fun, thrilling and very well written – She Be Damned is a carefully crafted adventure that I hugely enjoyed, and I look forward to seeing what the delightful Mrs Chancey gets up to next. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend The Queen's Man by Rory Clements – another adventurous and well-paced thriller that combines historical detail with a clever plot. We think you might also like Trades of the Flesh by Faye L Booth. We also have a review of the next book in the series.

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Buy She Be Damned by M J Tjia at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy She Be Damned by M J Tjia at


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