Published by Doubleday/Transworld
ebook & hardback : 23 March 2017 | paperback : 10 August 2017
Sparkling cocktails, poisonous secrets … 1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day. But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.
Set on a cruise liner, the ‘Orontes’ in 1939, just before the outbreak of WW2, A Dangerous Crossing follows young Lily Shepherd as she travels on her own (albeit under the guidance of a chaperone) to a new life in Australia. She is on an assisted passage scheme, paid for by the Government to encourage people to settle in Australia. She is expecting to find domestic work there but also hopes to leave tragedy and heartbreak behind her, the details of which become clear.
There are a myriad of fellow passengers that she encounters – some pleasant, others hateful but many of them seem to be running away from secrets or scandal and in some cases themselves – brother and sister Helena and Edward Fletcher; wealthy couple Max and Eliza Campbell. A Jewish woman, Maria who was anxiously waiting for news of her family left behind in Poland and facing possible incarceration in the concentration camps; the bitter and mean minded Ida, who unfortunately Lily has to share a cabin with.
Although we know from the very beginning that someone has been arrested and led from the ship in handcuffs once it has docked in Sydney, this is not a fast paced read. Just like the 5 weeks it takes to get from Tilbury to Australia, this story is more of a journey. A character study of people with different backgrounds all thrown together and living in their own bubble whilst in the confines of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the ship. People whose social status was such that they would not normally mix with the likes of Lily.
As soon as I saw the cover of this book I wanted to read it. It has a wonderful Art Deco/Agatha Christie look about it. Also I love cruise ships and stories set on cruise ships so for me this was a win win! The author, Rachel Rhys, is the pseudonym of a thriller writer that I am a huge fan of so that I knew I that I would be in safe hands. (It’s now no secret that the thriller writer is the respected Tammy Cohen). It’s a complete departure from her usual novels but I loved it and completely immersed myself in the time spent on board and on land with Lily and her fellow passengers. The long days of life onboard and the descriptive prose of time spent ashore makes for a captivating read. You really get a feel for the decadence and glamour enjoyed by the first class passengers, and a comparison with that of the facilities available for the less wealthy passengers.
Lily is still young enough to have her head turned by attention from those in the upper social classes and doesn’t always have the foresight to see that she is being used. Not completely sure of her place, she often comes across as naive and gullible but she mostly has a good heart, although there was one part of the story when I was really disappointed with her although to be fair, I think Lily was just as disappointed in herself.
“It’s not that I don’t like them. I just think they’re damaged. And damaged people are dangerous people”.
Reading A Dangerous Crossing is rather like watching an accident in slow motion. You are just waiting for the impact and the feeling of foreboding intensifies as the story proceeds but you are powerless to intervene and can only watch and gasp at the events unfolding before you.
As a fan of historical fiction, A Dangerous Crossing really hit the spot for me – the clearly well researched and authentic detail, the sense of unease emanating from the behaviour of the characters, wondering what secrets some of them were hiding and, towards the end, the tension of watching people implode and show their true colours. All this is set against the backdrop of the threat of war.
I do so hope there is another historical fiction book from the pen of Rachel Rhys. This is clearly a change of direction that has absolutely worked. The author has revealed that although this is fiction, the story was inspired by a real life account of a 1930’s ocean voyage – further details of which can be seen in a blog post from the author here.
I received an ARC via the Amazon Vine review programme. However, I couldn’t resist buying the hardback copy, it really is a book of beauty – both with the dust jacket on and off.
and the forthcoming paperback cover is something rather special too.
About the author:
RACHEL RHYS is the pen-name of a successful psychological suspense author. A Dangerous Crossing is her debut under this name and is inspired by a real life account of a 1930s ocean voyage. A Dangerous Crossing is due to be published around the world. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.