Today I am sharing my book review for Sara Sheridan’s Brighton Belle.
Author: Sara Sheridan
Publisher: Kensington Books
In post-World War II England, former Secret Service operative Mirabelle Bevan becomes embroiled in a new kind of intrigue…
1951: In the popular seaside town of Brighton, it’s time for Mirabelle Bevan to move beyond her tumultuous wartime years and start anew. Accepting a job at a debt collection agency seems a step toward a more tranquil life.
But as she follows up on a routine loan to Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee who’s recently come off the train from London, Mirabelle’s instincts for spotting deception are stirred when the woman is reported dead, along with her unborn child.
After encountering a social-climbing doctor with a sudden influx of wealth and Romana’s sister, who seems far from bereaved and doesn’t sound Hungarian, Mirabelle decides to dig deeper into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. Aided by her feisty sidekick–a fellow office worker named Vesta Churchill (“no relation to Winston,” as she explains)–Mirabelle unravels a web of evil that stretches from the Brighton beachfront to the darkest corners of Europe. Putting her own life at risk, she must navigate a lethal labyrinth of lies and danger to expose the truth.
I’m going to preface this review with the fact that I am not a fan of cozy mysteries, so take my review with a grain of salt. If I do not like cozy mysteries, then why did I request it? I have no idea. I can’t remember if it was sent to me unsolicited, or if I somehow accidentally requested it… Either way I ended up giving it a go.
The premise behind this one is that a former WWII secret service operative settles down working for a debt collector after the war. When people start turning up dead and others go missing, Mirabelle decides to take matters into her own hands and do some digging. Mirabelle was a driven female lead, that was determined to unveil the truth surrounding this mystery. While I appreciated Mirabelle’s tenacity & determination, I questioned many of her decisions which placed herself (and others) in dangerous situations. Mirabelle’s poor decisions and reckless behaviors made it hard for me to root for her. Mirabelle felt very naive & foolhardy, which contradicts her past occupation as a secret service operative…
The writing overall seemed to be a tad on the developing side. There were instances where the POV shifted out of the blue in the middle of a chapter. The transitions definitely needed a little work. I had some issues with the overall plot as well…
One thing that really irked me while Brighton Belle was that I felt like the reader is just thrown into this story without proper character development or backstory. It almost seemed like this book was the second in a series, or possibly a spin off series, and that we were already supposed to be familiar with the main character & her back story. We learn early on in the book that Mirabelle is mourning the loss of a lover that died in the war by the name of Jack. Jack is often referenced throughout the book, but we don’t ever learn his backstory or really anything about their relationship. Oh yeah, did I mention that Mirabelle was the “other woman” and he was totally going to leave his wife for her? ((Insert eye roll here)) The way Jack is referenced made it seem like the reader should have known who this character was before coming into this novel. It all felt a bit disorienting to me.
The biggest issue I had with the plot line in Brighton Belle would be the fact that there were far too many coincidences, improbabilities, and plot holes for me to enjoy this one. I found myself highlighting many scenarios where I was rolling my eyes either because the scene was far-fetched or unbelievable. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in any type of crime fiction.
If you are one that enjoys simplistic cozy mystery types of books, this one may work for you, but it was not my cup of tea.
Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based novelist who writes cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers. She has also written for children – her picture book I’m Me has appeared on CBeebies three times – and occasionally takes on commercial non-fiction project including, in 2017, writing the companion guide to the ITV series, Victoria.
She takes a broad approach to research from the archive to the vintage shop. Sara is also an active campaigner and feminist. She is a twitter evangelist and a self-confessed swot (that’s a nerd if you’re from the US).
Sara believes writers need writers and has sat on a variety of committees in writing organisations as well as taking part in a plethora of writing exhibitions. She occasionally mentors fledgling writers for the Scottish Book Trust and appears regularly as an after-dinner speaker at corporate events.
In 2016, with her daughter, she founded the brand REEK. perfume with signature scent – Damn Rebel Bitches, which has been called ‘the first feminist fragrance.’
Sara has been named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 most influential Scottish women, past and present. Sara is also patron of registered Edinburgh charity Its Good 2 Give, which provides support for critically ill children and their families.
Have you read Brighton Belle? If so, what did you think?
Are you a fan of “cozy mysteries”? Why, or why not?
Comment below & let me know!