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Sunday, 20 December 2020

‘The Kill Fee’ by Fiona Veitch Smith

Published by Lion Hudson,
16 September 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78264-218-3

The action in The Kill Fee is mainly set in London in 1920 but there are several flashbacks to events that occurred in Russia in 1917-18, when aristocratic Russian families were in danger from the Bolshevik uprising. The 1917-18 part follows the story of young Anya and her English nanny, who are saved by a mysterious champion, ‘the man in the bearskin coat’, who had entered the house to steal but remained to protect Anya when her mother and elder brothers are murdered. All that Anya has left is her beloved dachshund, Fritzie. As she and her nanny are penniless they are  forced to flee on foot to try to reach safe territory.

In London, the story centres around Poppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment editor for The Daily Globe. Poppy’s strict Methodist parents had allowed her to come to London to stay with her Aunt Dot, an actress now confined to a wheelchair after violence suffered when she was a Suffragette, but they had expected Poppy to be a demure companion to her aunt. They had not envisaged that, alongside her best friend, Delilah, Poppy would become part of fashionable, fast-living society, or that she would become a career woman, employed by the forward-thinking, American dwarf, Rollo Rolandson, the owner and chief editor of The Daily Globe newspaper.

Poppy is already aware of the Russian aristocratic presence in London, indeed, Princess Selena, an actress and a cousin of the Czar, is staying with her aunt. Selena is such an exhibitionist that it is hard to know when she is telling the truth, but it seems probable that she is one of the Royal Treasure Keepers: people designated by the Russian rulers to ensure the safety of their valuables and prevent them falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks. Selena’s treasure is a magnificent Fabergé egg, and it forms part of an exhibition of valuable artworks that the Russian aristocrats have put on display in order to raise funds. In her role as Arts and Entertainment editor, Poppy attends the opening night of the exhibition, along with her boyfriend, Daniel, who is The Globe’s photographer, and Aunt Dot, Princess Selena, Rollo, Delilah and Delilah’s boyfriend, Adam. During the exhibition, the lights go out and a shot is fired. When the lights are restored, a guard has been wounded and the largest Fabergé egg has disappeared.

As Poppy and her fellow journalists investigate, it becomes clear that the theft of this Fabergé egg is linked to other thefts around the world and, although the eggs are all worth a lot of money in their own right, their true value is in a secret they contain. This secret could cause chaos throughout Europe and even lead to another devastating war. As people connected to the egg are murdered, Poppy finds herself in a strange and dangerous world of secrets and spies, uncertain who she can trust as she struggles to keep herself and those she cares about safe.

The Kill Fee is the second in the series featuring Poppy Denby. It has an intriguing plot and excellent historical detail, and skilfully blends fictional characters and real-life people of the time. The characters are engaging, especially Poppy as she fights to establish and maintain her right to have a career. The Kill Fee is a fascinating read, which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

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.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts click on the title.

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