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Brighton Belle
A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery - Book I
Sara Sheridan

Polygon (Birlinn Ltd)
3 May 2012 / ISBN 9781846972331
Historical Mystery / 1951 / Brighton, England
Amazon US - UK

Reviewed by
Rachel A Hyde

Mirabelle Bevan had an interesting war in the secret service, but she is finding peacetime is rather less enjoyable. For one thing. her lover is dead and, as he was married, she cannot be too public about mourning him. For another, she is working in the less exciting job of secretary for a debt collection agency. When a man comes in about a debt he wants to recover from the pregnant Hungarian immigrant, Romana Laszlo, it sounds like just another case. But when Romana turns up dead the plot thickens. Aided and abetted by another immigrant, black Vesta Churchill, the insurance clerk who works in the same building, Mirabelle is determined to solve the case, especially when her boss disappears…

It is always good to read the first in a new series, and this is the only book set in Brighton in the early 1950s that I can think of, which is another plus. The cover rather erroneously compares the author to Agatha Christie, which instantly causes the would-be reader to imagine something rather cozy. Instead, think more of the film noir world of Dashiell Hammett, and you won't be far off; this is what the book kept reminding me of. This is a world of seedy boarding houses, betting scams, refugees and post-war austerity. Rationing is still in force, and Ms Sheridan manages to paint a picture of a bleak place filled with people trying to come to terms with the very new world the war has left them with. The war still casts a very long shadow, with the Nuremberg Trials as unfolding news. If you like your historicals to really bring a period and place to life - and who doesn't - this ought to impress.

Reviewed 2012