SARA Sheridan wrote historical fiction before she switched to writing crime, and her second Mirabelle Bevan mystery certainly captures the atmosphere of the early 1950s.
In London, although most of the war damage has been repaired and the Soho nightclubs reopened, the smog persists and so does rationing. In Brighton, Mirabelle has put her wartime role as a secret service agent behind her and is a partner in a Brighton debt collection firm which doubles as a private detective agency.
Eighteen-year-old Rose Bellamy Gore has slipped out of her Belgravia home at night and is picked up by her cousin Harry in his Aston Martin. A friend joins them and they head off to Soho nightclubs. Later that evening, she disappears.
Black saxophone player Lindon Claremont, the last person to be seen with her, is the police’s chief suspect, largely on account of his colour. He seeks the help of his childhood friend, Vesta Churchill, who is also black and is Mirabelle’s partner in the debt collection/private eye business. They in turn involve Detective Superintendent McGregor, who has left Lothian and Borders Police to clean up the Brighton force. There is the hint of a romance with Mirabelle – no doubt to be developed in the next book.
Mirabelle needs little encouragement to put aside her debt collecting and concentrate on unravelling the mystery. She starts with what can only be described as clumsy information gathering on the London club scene. As a result of her wartime experiences she has some unusual detection skills. She memorises room numbers in a hotel using an encryption code and burgles the rooms with the stock of hairpins she carries for this very purpose.
Unfortunately, she is not a convincing private detective, and comes across as more of an interfering busybody. The only tragedy in the book takes place too early in the story and there are few surprises thereafter. Instead of a serious attempt to solve a crime, what we have here is more of a lighthearted romp. «