1935, Nassau, and Ruby Dove and Fina Aubrey-Havelock are boarding the SS Sanguine, heading for Trinidad. Ruby is working as an assistant to a fashion designer and Fina as a governess, but they have an ulterior motive. They have been asked to make contact with… well, a contact, by Ruby’s brother. They are working for a group with a mission – to bring down the British Empire.
But soon, the identity of their contact is the least of their concerns, as one of the passengers is found dead in their cabin, although there seems to be a surprising lack of blood in the room. Ruby and Fina, having recently unmasked one murderer, find themselves tasked to catch the killer – a killer who seems not to have finished their work.
This is a rather charming mystery. A period piece with an interesting setting – the anti-Empire resistance is not an angle that I’ve seen before – and a pair of distinctive sleuths. Fina is more in the role of Watson, as it’s Ruby who does the majority of the detection and it’s Fina who’s point of view that we see more of.
It’s clearly written by someone with a love for the mystery genre, as once the murder takes place, the sleuths get to work interviewing suspects and pondering the case. It bounces along nicely, with some well-constructed clueing and some interesting encounters along the way.
I do wish that I had read the first book in the series, something that I intend to get round to, as I felt I was having to work a little to figure out exactly what Fina and Ruby were up to on the boat. It’s never really spelled out to the reader, which is fine, but I think I’d have got more out of this section with some more background knowledge.
It’s a well-written tale, straightforward but not predictable – there are a couple of points where the reader just has to accept plot developments, notably the ease with which Ruby and Fina are put in charge of the investigation. But it’s such a pleasure to read an historical mystery from this era where the mystery comes first – a clear attempt to emulate the Golden Age style. Well Worth A Look.