Looking for a great holiday read? Meet Poppy Denby. Journalist by day, flapper by night. Fiendishly clever 1920s jazz age mysteries, shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger Award. Book 3, The Death Beat, will be out in October, so make sure you’ve read the first two by then! Buy the books here.
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Another great review of The Kill Fee in the highly respected Historical Novel Review (Issue 79), published by the Historical Novel Society. Relieved to have passed muster! (Glad to see they liked my original 1920 map – I spent months looking for just the right one).
It’s October 1920 in London, and young reporter Poppy Denby finds herself in the midst of murder, Bolshevik intrigue, stolen Faberge eggs, and aristocratic Russian princess actresses. Poppy is only slightly distracted by her beau, widowed Daniel Rokeby, who is more ready than Poppy to move their relationship along. It’s up to Poppy to get ahead of the detectives investigating the murders and thefts, not only to see justice done but also to get the scoop on competing newspapers.
This is a light, fast read, well-written and with plenty of twists and eccentric characters—including playwright George Bernard Shaw, Rasputin assassin Prince Felix Yusopov, and even the Tsar and Tsarina—for there are episodes in the book that skip back in time. (The Romanovs, the wealthiest family in the world at the time, had been murdered in 1918.)
Smith warns readers about how complex the political scene was between the Russian Whites (supporters of the old order, or at least enemies of communism) and all the Red factions. No need to worry; she does a fine job of telling her story without political confusion, mostly by staying clear of politics. The confusion comes from the glut of characters, but again, not to worry. Smith helpfully offers an index of fictional and historical characters. There’s also a fine map of 1920 London at the front of the book.
All in all, an entertaining romp with nonstop action, a perky heroine, and quirky characters.
Smith (The Jazz Files) returns to formidable and spunky Poppy Denby, arts and entertainment editor for the Daily Globe, in this inspirational whodunit set in post-WWI London. As Poppy goes from covering a Russian art exhibit to looking for a murderer and a missing Fabergé egg, she takes on charming and possibly nefarious Andrei Nogovski of the Russian embassy. With help from Rollo Rolandson, her boss; fellow reporter Ike Garfield; aunt and suffragette Dot Denby; and best friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy follows leads and discovers that people aren’t always what they seem. Interspersed with Poppy’s story are flashbacks that center on a young Russian aristocrat and the nanny who saves her from the fate of the rest of her family. The audience follows them as they cross the Russian landscape and wait to see how their story intersects with Poppy’s mystery. The complicated plot, involving a myriad of both White and Red Russians, is offset by the list of characters at the beginning, reminding readers of numerous important names and their allegiances. Smith weaves together a diverse cast, including both male and female characters in positions of power, and depicting a variety of ethnicities and abilities without resorting to stereotypes. Embark with upstanding, uplifting Poppy and her friends on a mystery involving jewel thieves, Russian royalty, murders, sword fights, car chases, and secret tunnel. Full review here.