Friday, March 8, 2013

Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: February 19, 2013

1951. Brighton. With the excitement of the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Secret Service) thinks her skills are no longer required. After the death of her lover she moves to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job as a secretary at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when confronted by the case of Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee, Mirabelle discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from the pretty insurance clerk down the corridor, Vesta Churchill, Mirabelle follows a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns, betting scams and corpses to a dark corner of Austerity Britain where the forces of evil remain alive and well.

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Church of the Sacred Heart, 1908, Hove
I picked up Sara Sheridan's Brighton Belle expecting a historical whodunit, but found instead a light mystery set in the post WWII Britain. Now I have nothing against light fiction, I read a lot of it, but having expected something weightier I found the reality somewhat underwhelming. 

This may seem like small potatoes to some readers, but the time period had little if any real impact on the narrative and that bothered me. I read historic fiction to be transported to another time and place, and was the primary reason for my interest in Brighton Belle. Seeing it so casually handled left me disappointed and the majoring reason behind my three star rating.

The mystery itself is another reason for the letdown I feel. There is a line in the opening chapters, easily spotted if one is paying attention, that gives it all away. Call me crazy, but mysteries aren't as exciting when you are reading to know the details as opposed to obsessing over how it all connects.

My experience wasn't all bad. Sheridan's characters are a little thin, but diverse enough to keep my attention and the plot isn't all that bad despite my calling the conclusion in the early chapters of the book. Most notable, however, is the pacing. Even I have to admit Brighton Belle is a pleasantly engaging read cover to cover. 

This review sounds harsh even to my ears, but bear in mind that it is my disappointment talking. Had I known this would be a lighter piece and formulated a different sort of expectation I know I would have had a much more positive experience with Sheridan's work. 

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'No,' said Vesta decisively, 'we can't go to the police. That's certain. If we do to the police and they get a sniff of it they'll kill Sandor.'
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Audra said...

Great review -- I feel you on having disappointment shape a review -- and so I'm grateful for your comments and observations as I was curious about this one. I think it isn't going to be one I rush to -- I really like Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope series, which is squarely a kind of cozy-ish WWII mystery series for when I'm craving just that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Audra. I hadn't heard of that series. Will have to check it out! :)

Tara said...

I may give this a go. I love the cover and premise. Hm. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The cover is what caught my attention and the sequel has a similar cover. Whoever did the design was spot on. :D