Brighton Belle - Sara Sheridan

I've had the first two books of the Mirabelle Bevan mystery series on my NOOK for years and just never got around to them, even in last year's Halloween bingo. I think the covers showed a depiction of the story and characters that looked too posh for something dark and creepy.

 

Boy was I wrong. And this should teach me to judge a book by its cover.

 

Mirabelle is a former British Secret Service intelligence worker who left the service and London when her lover died from a heart attack. The story takes place in 1951, two years after his death, and Mirabelle at first is still deep into mourning, living life by just going through the motions and drinking a little more than she should. She moved to Brighton and is working as an office manager/administrative assistant in a debt collection agency. Her boss is a good guy, and doesn't ask personal questions.

 

Until the day her boss goes missing, a new client is looking for help in collecting on a debt, and a friend from her time in the BSS comes to call  - in one day. She makes friends with the office admin in the insurance company offices next door named Vesta Churchill (no relations to those other Churchills). With Vesta's knowledge of insurance and Mirabelle's experience in the BSS, the ladies go a-sleuthing. One (Father Sandor, Mirabelle's friend from the war) plus one (her dead boss' body found in a coffin labeled for someone else) equals FORMER NAZIS! This story is about a lot of little plotlines all converging into one coherent conspiracy, along with corruption in Brighton's police department (giving an easy way of introducing outsider Detective MacGregor as a potential love interest) and a look at racism in England in the 1950s through both Vesta's and Mirabelle's eyes.

 

This isn't quite a cozy mystery (the death count is HIGH for a non-serial killer story and some of the deaths are on the page), but not a thriller or suspense type of mystery either. Vesta and Mirabelle are smart in different ways and really balance each other out. I really enjoyed their friendship. I also really liked Mirabelle coming back to herself while investigating; she seemed like such a lost soul in the beginning of the book, but as the investigation gave her purpose outside of just living day to day, she seemed to be realizing that she still has lots to do and give to the world. It was like going from black and white to Technicolor.