Published by Lion Fiction,
17 Sept. 2015.
ISBN 978-1-78264175-9 (PB)
Reading a novel by a writer you have not come across
before can be something of a mixed blessing. You may find a new author to add
to your list of favourites or end up feeling disappointed. The blurb may sound
interesting, the number of good reviews promising, but a few pages in, you may
decide this is not the book for you. I will confess to being the cynical type.
I’m much more likely to read the 1- and 2-star reviews than the top ones.
However, ‘The Jazz Files’ certainly did not fall into the latter category for
me. I quickly became hooked and eager to know exactly what the feisty wannabe
journalist Poppy would get herself into next.
is set in 1920. Poppy Denby hankers to do more with her life than the charity
work in her father’s Methodist parish in Morpeth but all the job opportunities
in the North are snapped up by the men returning from the Great War. Her Aunt
Dot, an ex-actress and militant suffragette is now in a wheelchair and invites
her to London to be her companion. Poppy arrives to discover that Aunt Dot
already has an able companion, Grace a fellow suffragette and one of the
Chelsea Six. These were a militant group of women who chained themselves to
railings in their stand for women’s rights. The founder of the group was Lady
Maud Dorchester and included her daughter Elizabeth who has spent the past
seven years in Willow Park Asylum in Battersea after witnessing the death of
answers an advert as assistant editor at The Globe – a role that turns out to
be sorting out the piles of documents cluttering up the editor’s office. These
include the Jazz Files – ‘any story that has a whiff of high society scandal
but can’t yet be proven’. However, when the reporter for the Arts calls in sick
at the last minute leaving the paper short of an article for the next day’s
edition, Poppy volunteers to interview her new friend Delilah daughter of
Gloria Marconi. Delilah is currently in rehearsals for the Old Vic production
of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The editor ‘Rollo’ Rolandson agrees, assigning the
Globe’s photographer Daniel to accompany Poppy.
Political Correspondent Bert Isaacs falls to his death from the third floor to
the atrium below. Was it an accident or was he pushed? Beneath Bert’s body, is
a letter from Elizabeth Dorchester smuggled out of the asylum. Saturated in
blood, the letter is now illegible, but it sets off a whole chain of events
that keeps the reader turning the pages until the end.
It is not
only the many twists and turns in the wonderfully conceived plot which
ultimately draws together the many seemingly unconnected threads that attracts
the reader, but also the characters. From the feisty heroine to the evil,
manipulating Lord Montague Dorchester and his repulsive son Archie, they are
drawn so cleverly that the reader finds themselves cheering them on or wanting
to punch them on the nose. The period setting of London, both the carefree
youthful exuberance of the flappers and London’s social elite to the poverty in
the back streets have been meticulously researched and evocatively recreated.
The romantic sub-plot also has its inevitable hiccups to keep the reader on
be the first in this engaging series that I have read but it will not be the
last. I can thoroughly recommend it.
Reviewer: Judith Cranswick
Fiona Veitch Smith is the author of the Poppy Denby Investigates novels, Golden Age-style murder mysteries set in the 1920s (Lion Fiction). The first book, The Jazz Files, was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, while subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Foreword Review Mystery Novel of the Year and the People’s Book Prize. Book 5, The Art Fiasco, is out now. Fiona lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Newcastle upon Tyne. She works part time for the Crime Writers' Association and is the Deputy Editor of Red Herrings magazine.Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’ Click on the title to read a review of Judith’s latest book A Death Too Far.