Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan

And so, after a busy July, we enter August, or, as I’ve decided to call it in my corner of the blogosphere, New Author August. The plan is to only read (for a month) books by authors that I have yet to review on my blog. Note that this will include authors that I’ve read before the blog started, but mostly it’s a chance to try some new things. I’ve a number of different things planned – including one cheat – and I might need to bend the rule if I’m sent some stuff to review, as obviously I’ll do that as soon as possible. But with no more prevaricating, on to the first book.

Sara Sheridan is the writer of all sorts of stuff, not all of it crime fiction, but Brighton Belle is the first in a planned series of books starring Mirabelle Bevan, an ex-Secret Service worker, who, post-war, is working for a debt-collecting agency in Brighton. But when she looks into the case of Romana Laszlo, a Hungarian refugee, and then her boss disappears, it seems that she has no choice but to use her experiences to investigate.

With the help of Vesta, an insurance clerk from down the hall, Mirabelle discovers a far more complicated situation that she expected. But can she bring things to a satisfying conclusion?

This certainly comes under the heading of Kindle bargain – only a quid on Amazon at the time of writing – and I found it by bouncing from recommendation to recommendation, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a very entertaining read. Sheridan has clearly put a lot of thought into her characters, in particular the leads, and the setting, a Brighton still in the shadow of the war, is brought to life well. I would be curious what other people thought of the character of Vesta, a black girl, and how she deals with the ingrained racism of 1950’s Britain, but I thought it was dealt with well. I enjoyed the team of Mirabelle and Vesta a lot, and the story chugs along nicely.

The plot? Well, it’s nicely convoluted, and escalates significantly from the story of a missing Hungarian girl. To be fair, certain plot points – one in particular towards the end – seem to come out of nowhere, and it certainly isn’t a whodunnit, but despite that, I rather enjoyed it. It’s been described as a “cosy noir”, which I think is a little unfair. Noir, yes, but while this isn’t full of blood and gore, it is much darker than the average cosy and all the better for it.

Well worth a look.

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