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on 18 July 2017
A gripping story with a twist I hadn't expected. Great read. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3.
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on 26 July 2012
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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on 6 December 2012
It was a thoroughly enjoyable book from start to finish. A great plot set against a historical backdrop in a part of the world I know very well. I finished it and headed for Amazon hoping to find it had been the first of a long series that I could start reading but no, it appears to be the only one at the moment. I look forward to further instalments. Just hope the next one isn't as negative about neighbouring Pompey: Vesta to Mirabelle "there wasn't any other reason for you to go to Portsmouth"!!
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on 27 May 2016
This is a fairly straightforward mystery story, with a fun time period setting. Mirabelle gets tangled into the case of Romana Laszlo when her boss goes missing. Following clues, at first alone, she finds many things which don't seem to add up, despite the fact she knows they must be connected. Needing a bit of help, she enlists Vesta, who works in the same building as her.

The characters were likeable and the mystery was interesting. Aside from the interesting time setting though, nothing jumped out at me as being particularly exciting or brilliant about the story. If I stumble on the sequel, I'll probably give it a go, but this one didn't leave me wanting to rush out and buy it. If you're looking for a nice mystery story, give it a go.

I'm rating this one 5/10.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 January 2016
1951 sees Mirabelle Bevan retired from her wartime job with the Secret Service and living a rather lonely and limited life in Brighton. Following the death of her lover and hopes of a cosy domestic life, she has left London with all its memories and taken a job well beneath her capabilities in a Brighton debt collection agency. Life seems to have little to offer her, apart from frequent nips of whisky and the daily challenge of outwitting the beach attendant so she can occupy a deckchair for free and eat her solitary lunchtime sandwich looking at the sea.

When her boss, Big Ben McGuigan, takes some sudden leave because of illness, Mirabelle is left in charge and that’s when Bert Jennings shows up wanting assistance in recovering a £400 debt from a pregnant Hungarian refugee, Romana Laszlo, who has supposedly come to Brighton to have her baby. Mirabelle starts to work the case and soon finds that facts about Romana don’t add up and she just can’t resist doing a little detective work to discover the truth. For this, she enlists the help of the delightful Vesta Churchill, a young black woman who works in an insurance office in the same building as Mirabelle. Mirabelle and Vesta, when the latter can be persuaded away from her chocolate biscuit tin, uncover a complex and deadly plot, involving prostitution, Nazi war criminals and numerous brutal deaths.

Sara Sheridan is better known as a writer of historical fiction and one of the best things about this novel is the way in which post-war austerity, fifties dress, food (or lack of it) and décor are so brilliantly evoked. Sheridan also doesn’t shy away from spelling out for us the racism endemic in 50’s Britain. Vesta’s philosophical acceptance of the cruelty, insults and unfair treatment speak volumes.

Brighton Belle has all the necessary qualities of good detective fiction and thankfully it tells the story in a clear and straightforward manner. How unusual is that nowadays? But it does more. The setting combined with a female detective and female side-kick/assistant feels very fresh. Mirabelle, too, is a very engaging character and certainly not two-dimensional as many fictional detectives are. The only negative thing I could say about this book (and this is probably just a fault of my too-vivid imagination) is that Mirabelle is portrayed as a very elegant and sophisticated woman and yet she is described as leaping over walls and vaulting fences and I just can’t see that in 1950’s dress. Just ignore me – way too picky.

All in all, this novel is Sara Sheridan’s first foray into the realm of crime fiction but by no means her first book. She has written much in other genres and it shows. Brighton Belle is slick, fast paced, well-crafted and just darned good. So good that I’ve already bought the next two in the Mirabelle Bevan Mystery Series.
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on 20 September 2017
in 1950s Brighton, Mirabelle works in a debt collection agency. Set just post-war there were still echoes of the horrors of what people experienced in during the war throughout the story and links to the past. There were experiences which were hinted at but that the characters did not talk about. I am very intrigued to know what Mirabelle really did in the war as I don't believe she was only a secretary in Whitehall. I would really like to know more about that and her relationship with her deceased lover Jack Duggan. The good news  for me then is that there are to date five more books in the series.

Mirabelle put me in mind of a younger and infinitely more glamorous Miss Marple. She's a sharp, quick-witted woman who doesn't seem afraid to bend the law more than a little to find out what she needs to know. I must mention the racism experienced by Vesta Churchill, a black woman who works with Mirabelle. It was jarring and quite shocking to see how she was regarded and treated. I think that she and Mirabelle are going to make a smart and sassy team though.

Brighton Belle is a well paced and well plotted mystery story, with plenty of danger and excitement. With its combination of 50s glamour and style and two female protagonists, I can see it's the start of a series I'm going to really enjoy.
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on 22 June 2015
all good reads again Amazon come up trumphs on price and delivery
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on 14 October 2012
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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on 24 July 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2013
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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