1951. Brighton. With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (Secret Service, retired) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.
Mirabelle won't quite admit it but she's finding post-war life a little dull, so a little mystery to solve comes as quite a diversion. She's an independent, sophisticated young woman in the habit of thinking and acting for herself but she soon discovers that there's a huge difference between sitting in an office, writing the manual on covert ops, and putting them into practice. Vesta is more cautious and baulks at some of things Mirabelle asks her to do but never chickens out. Together they make an interesting and unusual team.
Brighton Belle is what I like to consider a good old-fashioned 'cosy' crime book - there are no psycho serial killers loosing their grudges on the world just good old bad guys prepared to murder their way to a profit - and Mirabelle herself is a 'traditional' amateur sleuth - think Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence series or a Brighton based Mma Ramotswe. Brighton itself is a murky sort of place with underworld gangs operating almost in the open and a corrupt police force that turns a blind eye. It hadn't really occurred to me till I started to add the 'tags' to this post but I suppose fiction written now and set in the 1950s counts as 'historical'
This is my first Mirabelle Bevan mystery - a lucky find at the library which, after reading Sheridan's Secret of the Sands, I'd expected to enjoy - and most definitely did! I'm now hoping they stock more!
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - PolygonGenre - crime, adult, historical
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