Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Constable (Constable & Robinson) 
Release Date:
17 October 2003 
ISBN: 1841195723 
Format Reviewed: Hardback 
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Genre: Historical Crime [1937 - Aboard the Queen Mary from London to New York] 
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde 
Reviewer Notes:  

Dangerous Sea
By David Roberts  

     Lord Edward Corinth and Verity Brown are all at sea for their fourth adventure, and after having tried the style of John Buchan and Dorothy L Sayers on for size are now in Agatha Christie mode for a spot of classic 30s crime fiction. Lord Edward's mission is to make sure that nothing untoward happens to economist Lord Benyon, crossing the Atlantic to persuade President Roosevelt to aid Britain if there is a war. Meanwhile Verity is also planning a trip on the liner on party business, to liaise with her American counterparts. Also lurking in First Class is a black singer and his white starlet wife, a racist Southern senator, some distant Roosevelt relatives and a creepy art dealer to name just a few. It is not long before somebody is dead in bizarre surroundings…

     I have remarked while reviewing the three predecessors of this novel that David Roberts tends to have the 1930s in all their full-blooded glory as the star turn and the plot somewhere in the background. This is also true of this novel, which has an unremarkable classic crime era storyline which is entertaining enough, but a more animated portrayal of this most ominous of decades is hard to imagine. There is a vibrant feeling of exciting ideas crackling in the air like radio waves, and of the birth of the modern world, as we know it that is palpable. Much is made of the various characters' political leanings, especially Communism which is in one way the main topic of the book as Verity and her comrades ponder on whether it is the way ahead or whether Fascism will triumph and what that will mean for life as they know it. Hollywood's racist tensions, the impending war and tales of Jews' plight in Germany are the topics of the passengers' conversations as they sail on a wonderfully realised luxury liner, and their lives are frozen and replaced with something else for the few days it takes to cross the ocean. Roberts manages to convey the artificial world of the Queen Mary as the perfect foil to murder and the ferment of the world outside and the whole novel pulsates with energetic history. As ever, Edward is unremarkable but Verity is a really strong and three-dimensional character that leaps off the page. My initial fears that this is going to be a series of Sayers clones were unfounded, and I guess the whodunits provide an entertaining framework to hang all this history on. Is this enough? Not quite. I still think that if Roberts ever comes up with a thrilling plot and marries it with his meticulous historical research he will come up with a real classics.