Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan
published 2012 set in 1951
[Investigator Mirabelle Bevan is discussing plans with co-conspirator Vesta.]‘So, today,’ she picked up her cup, ‘I’m going to the racecourse. It’s the last place we can actually place Ben McGuigan.’
‘OK,’ Vesta agreed, her mouth still full. ‘And I’ll stay in the office...’
‘Do you suppose people dress up for the races?’
Vesta shrugged. ‘What – like they do at Ascot? Shouldn’t think it’s quite so swish.’ She pondered the question with tremendous seriousness. ‘Have you got a nice hat, though? That’s what ladies wear to the races, isn’t it? A hat?’
Mirabelle disappeared into the bedroom and emerged wearing a glamorous pink silk confection on her head. She had bought it to wear at a wedding – it seemed like a hundred years ago. The coral shade brought out the hazel of her eyes, which were quite startling when you noticed them, thought Vesta. It was the first time she had seen Mirabelle wear anything frivolous. The splash of colour sparked her dark understated brown dress into life and easily knocked five years off her age. ‘That’s lovely!’ Vesta giggled.
‘I have to look like I belong there but I don’t want to attract attention,’ Mirabelle said.
observations: Sara Sheridan has written in a number of genres and this, her latest, looks as if it is the first of a series. It’s set in post-war Brighton and Sheridan has obviously gone to some trouble to research the details – though a hat later in the book is described as a ‘fascinator’, a usage that Clothes in Books does not believe was current in 1951( we can’t help being pedantic, and we have a whole blog entry devoted to the word).
Mirabelle is, as befits a series heroine, given plenty of potential material in an elaborate backstory – working for intelligence and a tragic love affair. As with some previously featured entries, the unsettling atmosphere after the war is well done. It’s an uneven book, with some problems of tone and point of view – you would hardly guess that the girly scene above is part of a desperate race against time to rescue a friend of the heroine’s in dire jeopardy - but the keen detective story reader would certainly read another in the series.
Links up with: Interesting to compare this with the post-war detective stories written at the time – for example Tiger in the Smoke , the Summer School Mystery and London Particular. Graham Greene wrote the classic Brighton crime novel.
The photo is from the State Library of Queensland, via Wikimedia Commons.