London Calling

Written by Sara Sheridan
Review by Jen Black

1952. Sixty years ago, the changes imposed by the war years had worked their way deep into the psyche of many people. Some for good, and some for bad.

Mirabelle Bevan, socialite and ex-Secret Service, leaves her expensive flat with the Georgian windows and walks through early morning Brighton to the debt-collecting agency she runs with her friend and colleague, Vesta. She is surprised to find someone waiting there for her. Wearing black and white shoes with red laces, he holds a battered saxophone case. He is looking for his friend Vesta in the hope that she can help him escape questioning by the police over the disappearance of a young girl in London. From such unpretentious beginnings, the story unfolds in a logical sequence of events in which not everyone comes out unscathed.

The period and social detail of this cosy mystery is accurate and delivered with a light touch. I enjoyed both the characterisation and fast pace of the story, though I did wonder how much cash Ms Bevan carried with her on a daily basis, as she whizzes up to London and back to Brighton several times without needing to replenish her supply. No credit cards then! Hotels also seem very accommodating to the point of providing a new pair of stockings when Ms Bevan falls foul of the villains. Perhaps they added their cost to her bill, but it is discreetly never mentioned.

This tale of two females turned amateur detective was unusual, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it does at times have the overall tone of sixth-formers following up clues to help a friend. This is not a bad thing, as Ms Bevan always survives the worst the villains can throw at her, and the reader is not overwhelmed with the depressing and often sadistic violence found in other thrillers.