This `cosy noir' (author's description) mystery introduces us to Mirabelle Bevan, whose WW2 was spent in the secret service. Seven years later she is bored, bereaved and living in Brighton - enough to make anyone seek distraction and excitement when it's on offer. It comes to her through the office door of the debt-collection agency she works for, a one-man/one woman band whose one man goes missing. And it does start rather `cosy' but it warms up!
The period is early 1950s and the author is at pains to immerse the reader in that period of history - a little disconcerting for those who actually remember when you could fill the tank of your car for ten shillings as long as you had the petrol coupons. (NB I don't - well not quite!) In many ways this is still the Brighton of Brighton Rock but this novel does not have the same dark intensity as Graham Greene's novel or depict quite such a crime-ridden, morally starved atmosphere. However there are certainly plenty of morally bankrupt characters, sinister plot-twists and shock tactics to keep the reader turning the page. It starts like an Agatha Christie story but towards the middle I found myself thinking of John Buchan and in some ways Mirabelle is a female version of Buchan's Richard Hannay, especially when she finds herself in a railway compartment with unpredictable company!
I won't give anything more away but will explain my reasons for awarding 4 stars. I admit to rarely giving 5 because I think they get splashed about too much, which dilutes their effect when a book truly deserves them. So don't get me wrong, I definitely recommend this as an exciting and intriguing introduction to a new detective character who I hope will grow and develop into a 5 star attraction during the series Sara Sheridan promises to give her.