London, 1920, and young Poppy Denby arrives in London from Morpeth, Northumberland, with the expectation of looking after her invalid Aunt Dot. Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette, has other ideas, and soon has Poppy looking for work, which she finds as an editorial assistant for The Daily Globe.
On her very first day at the office, a senior reporter is killed. He had been investigating corruption and scandal amidst the Great and the Good, in particular a certain Lord Dorchester and his distinctly unpleasant son, Alfie. Everything seems to tie back to a night seven years ago where a suffragette was killed in a train yard and another – Dorchester’s daughter – was sent to an asylum. It seems that the group of suffragettes – the same group that Aunt Dot was a member of – had a traitor in their midst…
There I was, blogging away, and I got a request from the publisher to take a look at this series. I’ll be honest, I almost said no, as I’ve read a few “plucky young gel between the wars” books, and with the exception of Frances Brody’s work, they all seem pretty slight. But then I thought, why not? I’m doing what I can at the moment to be extra-nice to people who promise to stay 2 metres away from me, so I figured, what harm could it do?
Absolutely none, this is an exceptionally fun read. Fiona Veitch Smith writes in her afterword that her first thought was to set it pre-war, but decided that would be too bleak, and I’m glad she changed her mind, pushing it to the twenties. Yes, there’s a lot of crap waiting just around the corner, but at this point, people were doing what they could to put the conflict behind them – hence the “Jazz” of the title, as Poppy discovers dancing and drinking (in moderation).
To be absolutely honest, this is more of an adventure than a mystery. Yes, there is the question of who killed the reporter and who killed the suffragette, both of which have… well, I’ll say surprising answers, but not in a “I never suspected them” way, but it is mostly detailing Poppy’s investigation, with the help of her friend Delilah, into the various mysteries, while avoiding the sinister Alfie.
I think Veitch Smith does an exceptional job of balancing the light and the dark in this story. Some historicals only have the latter and far too many only have the former. The latter, I can deal with, the former less so, but at no time did I get irritated with Poppy, instead I was cheering her along as she went, concerned (well, as much as you can be about a fictional heroine who has a four book series) when she got into danger…
I don’t recommend it if you want a mystery and nothing more as you may come away disappointed with the revelations – one has a definite “it must be you as why else are you now trying to kill me?” element to it – but if you want an enjoyable, exciting read with an enjoyable heroine (and supporting cast) then look no further.