I have been catching up with books from 2018 that I never got around to reading then and will be writing mini-reviews for those I highly recommend. The two I have for today happen to be historical novels set in the early 20th century.
First up, it’s Kate Atkinson’s Transcription (Little, Brown and Company, September 2018), a historical thriller about spies in London in early 20th century. The book mostly goes back and forth between the 40s and the 50s, following the narrative of Juliet Armstrong – from when she is 18 years old and recruited into the world of espionage as a transcriber (and later as an undercover operative) to ten years later, in a post-war London as a BBC employee.
What is super great about the book is Juliet’s voice: from joining MI5 as a somewhat naïve late teen to relishing her role as a spy (for all the fear and misgivings), Juliet’s voice is direct, non-nonsensical and often even funny (especially when pursuing a lover). There is of course a darker side to this novel: Juliet’s main mission concerns the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers during World War II (which often – to my surprise – strikes as eerily topical and timely). In the 50s, the book shows a country being rebuilt and a Juliet who still struggles with her past. When she then bumps into a former (former?) operative who doesn’t acknowledge who she is, she knows there is something afoot. This is when the novel takes a turn into a twisterific bona fide spy thriller with the prospect of double agents in the game. I really, really enjoyed this one – and felt the ending to be genuinely surprising.
Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens (Puffin, Octover 2018) is the seventh book in the Murder Most Unladylike mystery series for kids. Will I ever get tired of Hazel and Daisy’s antics? NOPE. The two are back from their travels to Hong Kong and are staying with Uncle Felix in London under the strict order of NOT getting entangled with yet another murder. So they decide to go and join a Theatre group as junior actresses in a new performance of Romeo and Juliet. But as soon as rehearsals start, the duo realise that there is something rotten in the theatre when one of the performers – the difficult leading lady – starts receiving threats against her life. Will the Detective Society be able to prevent murder before it happens or are they already too late?
This one has one of the cleverest mysteries in the series so far, which kept me guessing to the very ending. The London theatre setting was super great, the recurrent appearances of George and Alexander a delight as always and with the added bonus of Daisy fully coming out as lesbian (complete with first crush and everything) this series only keeps getting better and better. MOARS PLEASE.
Additional Thoughts: Reviews of previous books:
Rating: 8 – Excellent (for both)