Brighton Belle

Written by Sara Sheridan
Review by Mike Ashworth

The year is 1951, and although rationing is still in force, England is slowly moving towards normality after the war years. Following the death of her married lover, Mirabelle Bevan, a backroom girl for the Secret Service, has moved to Brighton to start a new life where she takes a job as a secretary for a debt collection agency. However, her desire for a quiet life, where excitement consists of avoiding paying for a deck chair on the beach, is short-lived. When a client – pregnant refugee Romana Laszlo – disappears, followed shortly after by Mirabelle’s boss “Big Ben” McGuigan, Mirabelle finds herself following a trail of gold sovereigns, betting scams and murder.

Early 1950s England is effectively portrayed in this intriguing mystery story. The ongoing problems of rationing are invoked, as is the casual racial discrimination in which a lady of West Indian origin is regarded as a cultural oddity not worthy of respect, which was endemic at this time. The bodies pile up with satisfying regularity, and Mirabelle finds herself in danger from Nazis as well as corrupt policemen before the story is brought to a satisfactory end. An excellent read for the beach or a long flight.