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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts 'cosy' but it warms up!
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...
Published 24 months ago by Joanna Hickson

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
I wonder why this is rated as an historical novel? Apart from the Grand Hotel, it could have been set anywhere, and the references to the 1950s were contrived, making it stilted and artificial. The prose and grammar reminded me of a sixth former writing an essay.

The plot was good, but needed an Ian Rankin to do it justice. Would an ex-intelligence service...
Published on 15 July 2012 by P. Collins


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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts 'cosy' but it warms up!, 26 July 2012
By 
Joanna Hickson (East Lothian, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mirabelle, 24 July 2012
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I have read both historical novels by Sara Sheridan, The Secret Mandarin and The Secret of the Sands and I really enjoyed them. When her new novel came out I couldn't wait to read it. It is a departure from her usual period of history but its a time I find fascinating, post war with all the austerity and social history of the early fifties.
Mirabelle Bevan is an elegant and beautiful woman, she was in the secret service during the war, working in an office, not an active agent but involved in intelligence just the same. After the war she moves from London to Brighton to try and forget her past. We will find out about her past life as the story unfolds. Now In Brighton she has a different kind office job, working for Big Ben McGuigan a dept collector. When Ben is out the office a dodgy London spiv comes in looking for him to collect a dept from a young woman who has moved to Brighton. Mirabelle takes on the job. We are then taken into a world of ex-SS and Nazi stolen gold. From the plush Grand Hotel to the Race track from Brighton Pier to London's underworld. There is intrigue, sex and red hot violence. With a cast of well drawn characters. I love the writers quirky style, so when the violence comes along it hits you right in the guts. I thoroughly enjoyed Brighton Belle and read it in quick time. This is part one of the series and I'm looking forward to more from Mirabelle and her sidekick Vesta!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy Reading Post War Thriller, 12 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
This is the first Sara Sheridan that I've read, and it seems it is her debut into detective writing.

I would like to see the characters fleshed out in the next book. I found the gender and racial bias interesting - was it that "old fashioned" in the fifties? Mirabelle may have made mistakes that a field agent would not, but she was a wartime desk jockey very much dealing in theory, and I would imagine that diving into field work would in fact be quite disorienting and would indeed result in just the sort of mistakes on the ground that other reviewers found unacceptable. She did seem to learn from her mistakes.

I think that this is an easy reading thriller, and I enjoyed the period background. I think the writer has the potential to improve on her style and produce a good next novel in the series.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brighton Belle, 12 Sep 2012
Brighton Belle is the first crime novel from critically acclaimed author Sara Sheridan. Her back catalogue is a combination of sharply written contemporary fiction and historical novels, impeccably researched and thick with atmosphere, which have taken her characters from the slave markets of the Arabian peninsula to the aftermath of the Opium War. The common thread running through these diverse books is the presence of strong female leads and Brighton Belle is no exception, launching ex-Secret Service operative Mirabelle Bevan into the seamy world of post-war Brighton.

It's 1951 and although the Nuremburg trials are over there are reminders of the war everywhere, rationing is still in force and swathes of London are razed to the ground. In Brighton Mirabelle Bevan is quietly mourning for her married lover and the promised future which has been snatched away from her by his premature death. She is living in a numb twilight, existing on crackers and Glenlivet, working for a debt collection agency. Which isn't as glamorous as it sounds. Not until her boss goes down with flu and she finds herself in sole charge of the office when a dapper Londoner comes in wanting to track down a young Hungarian woman who's hightailed it to Brighton with a baby about to drop and four hundred pounds of his money.

With her boss away for a few days Mirabelle tells herself it's only natural she should make some discreet inquiries. Quickly she discovers than the missing woman Romana Laszlo has died in childbirth, along with her baby, and that everything is being smoothed over very efficiently by her sister and a local doctor who seems to have come into money suddenly. She also discovers that the thrill of the chase makes her feel more alive than she has for years, temporarily shaking her out of her grief and making the most of her wartime expertise.

Romana Laszlo isn't the only person to suffer a suspicious death in Brighton though. A wealthy Spanish businessman has been murdered in his suite at The Grand Hotel, after an exhaustive session with a high-class call girl, and it doesn't take Mirabelle long to sniff out the connection. She enlists the help of Vesta Churchill, a young Jamaican woman who works at the insurance company in her building, and they get much closer to the action than is safe for either of them. From this point the plot really begins to fly, moving into dark and brutal territory which reveals that the declaration of peace rarely marks the end of conflict.

On the surface Brighton Belle has all the hallmarks of a cosy crime novel, picturesque seaside setting, abundant period details and a feisty amateur sleuth with a rather fabulous wardrobe, but there is more than a touch of noir to this book and Sheridan gleefully dives into the seedy side of Austerity Britain. We follow Mirabelle through Notting Hill dives and Soho nightclubs, on a house breaking mission to one of London's better streets, and to an atmospherically worked race meet which felt like a respectful nod to Graham Greene. Can't quite imagine Miss Marple holding her own in such insalubrious settings.

Brighton Belle is perfect autumn reading, dark and cosy, the kind of book you'll whip through in one long evening. Sara Sheridan has an engaging style and she's created an appealing character in Mirabelle Bevan, tough without being clichéd, a real product of the period. For the first in a series Brighton Belle is highly assured and Sheridan's literary pedigree shines out in her deftly written characters and evocative prose. I will definitely be looking out for the next instalment of this series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting New Series (I expect), 14 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
By choosing an unusual time period (the 1950s) and an unusual protagonist (a former researcher and back-office handler in some unstated area of the British wartime secret service), this author starts with an intriguing proposition. Though she doesn't quite deliver on that promise, it's still a well-written and carefully plotted book. The tale moves along at a good pace and has plenty of odd twists and turns, some cliff-hanger moments and an unexpected ending. It makes a good read for a long, wet afternoon.

That's the good news. Less good is the period detail, which never seems to go beyond the superficial. I was a child in the 1950s and even I recall it more clearly than this. The post-war austerity, the shabbiness and the sense of almost physical exhaustion after the supreme effort of wartime are all absent. Then the characterisation seems a little "off." Mirabelle is oddly disengaged much of the time and her discussions with Vesta about the problems of being a young, black woman in the Brighton of that time seem far too modern in outlook.

But what made me feel least convinced was the constant stress on how almost impossibly chic and well-dressed all the female characters are. The author's other books seem to consist mostly of romances and I fear too much of that genre has spilled over. You expect a few bodices to get ripped at any moment! More down-to-earth dowdiness and poor quality austerity clothing would help increase the sense of realism, however beautiful she wants her female characters to be inside their clothes. Fewer stiletto heels would also be more authentic. I can't say I ever remember seeing such shoes until the 1960s, and then only on the feet of wealthy, fashionable film stars and the like.

So, a good idea, some good writing and a pretty good plot let down by mistakes I'm hoping she'll put right by the time the next instalment comes out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime & Society in the 50s, 12 May 2013
By 
Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
Mirabelle Bevan, is bored it must be said. Her life during the Second World War was slightly more exciting even though it was from a desk within the Secret Service and her lover was also to be found there when not on secret missions. But the end of the war changes a lot of things and it is now 1951, Mirabelle's lover is now dead and she has moved to Brighton where she has taken up an administration role within a debt collection agency. Life is very every day and humdrum.

But then unexpectedly a case comes into the agency that suddenly stirs the past interest of Mirabelle and perhaps her skills can be put to use once again. Mirabelle takes on the case in the absence of her boss. It seems simple enough a man from London needs to get some money back from a women recently moved to Brighton. But suddenly it is far from simple and Mirabelle finds herself embroiled in the London underworld, with prostitutes living it up in the Grand Hotel and the money changing hands at the race track. And where exactly has her boss got to?

Sara Sheridan captures 1950s post war Britain,very well, rationing was still in force, rebuilding the cities was a slow process, memories were still fresh in the way some had been treated by the Nazis. Combining this with the well created characters, even those that were no longer with us, such as Mirabelle's married lover still give a strong impact to the story as a whole. Sheridan is not afraid of introducing Vesta Churchill, a young black woman who works along the corridor from Mirabelle into the story, not just to become her side kick for future novels but also the difficulty a black female was having to cope with the prejudice of 1950s Britain. This may well be a crime novel but it is very much a social history novel at the same time. I look forward to seeing what Mirabelle and Vesta get up to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Mystery, 24 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
This is a book of intrigue . Very well written and hard to put down. The leading character is just right for the adventure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected treasure, 23 Mar 2013
By 
Fren (Northumberland, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
I got this because it was reviewed on the Madame Guillotine blog and I fancied reading something different. It is an excellent, atmospheric detective story and I liik forward to finding out how Mirabelle and Vesta get on in the next book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 5 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed this. Mirabelle Bevan and her sidekick Vesta are characters that I really warmed to from start. I found the story full of twists and intrigue, so much so that I couldn't put the book down until I had finished it. Fantastic!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 12 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Brighton Belle: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery: Book 1 (Kindle Edition)
An excellent murder mystery. The first in a series about the lead character. I loved the authors descriptions and the lack of blood and gore, although there were some deaths.
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