Brighton Belle – Sara Sheridan

Mirabelle Bevan, is bored it must be said. Her life during the Second World War was slightly more exciting even though it was from a desk within the Secret Service and her lover was also to be found there when not on secret missions. But the end of the war changes a lot of things and it is now 1951, Mirabelle’s lover is now dead and she has moved to Brighton where she has taken up an administration role within a debt collection agency. Life is very every day and humdrum.

But then unexpectedly a case comes into the agency that suddenly stirs the past interest of Mirabelle and perhaps her skills can be put to use once again. Mirabelle takes on the case in the absence of her boss. It seems simple enough a man from London needs to get some money back from a women recently moved to Brighton.  But suddenly it is far from simple and Mirabelle finds herself embroiled in the London underworld, with prostitutes living it up in the Grand Hotel and the money changing hands at the race track.  And where exactly has her boss got to?

Sara Sheridan captures 1950s post war Britain,very well, rationing was still in force, rebuilding the cities was a slow process, memories were still fresh in the way some had been treated by the Nazis. Combining this with the well created characters, even those that were no longer with us, such as Mirabelle’s married lover still give a strong impact to the story as a whole.  Sheridan is not afraid of introducing Vesta Churchill, a young black woman who works along the corridor from Mirabelle into the story, not just to become her side kick for future novels but also the difficulty a black female was having to cope with the prejudice of 1950s Britain. This may well be a crime novel but it is very much a social history novel at the same time. I look forward to seeing what Mirabelle and Vesta get up to.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is another one of those cosy crime novels that has hit the bookshelves. I thought that, but actually it is a lot darker than that and while it has the same components – strong female characters and historical setting it does not hold back on some of the more graphic scenes, when describing the crimes of the past as well as those of the plot. Using London and Brighton as bases,m it takes us away from that cosy village or country setting that we are perhaps used to? 

I enjoyed this book, and I have previously read another of her novels The Secret Mandarin, and I felt that that particular plot got slightly lost on plot and characters and I admit to being reluctant to picking up another one of her novels. I do like it when I am wrong and surprised by the author. I looked forward to reading her next Mirabelle Bevan novel – London Calling.