Singapore Sapphire (A Harriet Gordon Mystery)

Written by A. M. Stuart
Review by Julia C. Fischer

Singapore Sapphire is the first in a promising new historical mystery series. In post-colonial Singapore in 1910, Harriet Gordon is a British woman escaping her tragic past. She arrives in Singapore to help her reverend brother at his school for boys. Seeking more financial independence, Harriet also takes up secretarial work, a fateful decision as her first employer, Sir Oswald Newbold, ends up murdered and she finds the body. With a sharp, independent, and curious mind, Harriet eventually aids Inspector Robert Curran’s investigation, and the two begin to uncover that Oswald, a mine magnate and trader in rubies and sapphires, might have been involved in some unsavory business dealings. As more people are murdered and one of her school boys is kidnapped, Harriet becomes intertwined in this complicated case and is drawn into danger.

This is a smartly written historical mystery, and Harriet Gordon is a breath of fresh air in the genre. No-nonsense and greatly offended by the status quo of women in the early 20th century, Harriet, a suffragette, wishes she could do more than be just a secretary. The reader also gets a glimpse into her past, making her even more relatable. The other characters are just as intriguing, including Inspector Curran, who has his own reasons for escaping to Singapore. Then there is the setting, which is a character in its own right. A.M. Stuart, who has lived in Singapore, is able to vividly bring the teeming streets and the stinking docks to life. The tension between the Europeans and Singapore natives crackles beneath the surface. This book is highly recommended for fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs and Jane Thynne’s Clara Vine series.