Lena Aldridge is wondering if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho and her married lover has just left her. She has nothing to look forward to until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York.
After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. Until death follows her onto the ship and she realises that her greatest performance has already begun.
Because someone is making manoeuvres behind the scenes, and there’s only one thing on their mind…
Miss Aldridge Regrets is the exquisite new novel from Louise Hare. A brilliant murder mystery, it also explores class, race and pre-WWII politics, and will leave readers reeling from the beauty and power of it.
Crime and cruise ships will always be a win for me and Miss Aldridge Regrets particularly appealed as I have cruised on the current Cunard Queen Mary and it is a beautiful ship. This story of murder, racial identity, prejudice and the seedy side of London clubland was one that I was really looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed. With a dual timeline and a backstory set in London’s Soho, the setting of the Queen Mary liner is an excellent choice, there is that ‘locked room’ vibe of a ship where there is no escape, together with the glamour and sophistication of the first class passenger lifestyle enjoyed by those rich enough.
Travelling in luxury doesn’t come naturally to club singer and aspiring actress Lena Aldridge of whom it was said ….”you sang like an angel with a twenty-a-day habit”. The job opportunity of a lifetime has been offered to her out of the blue and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Her beloved father Alfie has died and she really is alone, apart from her best friend Maggie who has her own troubles. Travelling first class on the Queen Mary at someone else’s expense, Lena sees how the other half live however this will not be the relaxing peaceful voyage that she envisaged.
Lena’s character is mixed race and the issue of racial prejudice comes through clearly in this story in its different forms. Although Lena can pass as European, it was pointed out to her that she may not find employment as easy to find in the US with their differing prejudices if people know her ethnic background. With Lena struggling to fit into either side of the racial divide, she is glad to find a friend on board, albeit in the lower boarding class – she will certainly need someone on her side.
With its slow pace, the story gradually builds momentum as the ship sails closer to New York along with the rising death count. There is a fairly small cast of characters to get to know and I was intrigued by Lena’s relationships with her fellow passengers, mainly a dysfunctional family, which were at the core of the story. To say more would venture into spoiler territory.
As a character, Lena was savvy enough, her life in the club had hardened her although there was still a vulnerability about her. Through her first person narrative, readers were privy to her thoughts about her life in London and the events that forced her hand, her worries about Maggie and in particular the dangerous situation she found herself in onboard.
I very much enjoyed the historical feel and the crime element of this, the plot of which wouldn’t have been out of place in an Agatha Christie story. The reveal certainly took me unaware, and although I have mixed feelings about its plausibility there was enough misdirection and surprise throughout to keep my imagination in overdrive.
Overall, this is one to recommend. Louise Hare writes so well and draws her characters superbly. The plot makes for an intriguing and suspenseful read and one that I’m sure will be enjoyed by fans of historical and crime fiction.
My thanks to HQ for the tour invite and for the copy to review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Hare is a London-based author. Her debut novel, This Lovely City, was published in the UK to wide acclaim, and was a Between the Covers Book Club Pick on BBC Two. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of London.
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