The Crimson Rooms…….by Katharine McMahon (2009)

Historical Fiction, Mystery

This is a novel that expertly illustrates that a war isn’t over when a cease-fire is declared.  It takes place in London in 1924 and it is shockingly clear that  almost everyone is suffering from the effects of the war.Evelyn Gifford is a 30ish young lady trying to become a lawyer at a time when women just weren’t lawyers. She lives in a London house with her mother, Grandmother, Aunt, and two elderly maids. The household is  crippled with grief over the death of Evelyn’s brother James, who died during the war–his hat sits on a hook in the front hall exactly as he left it on his last leave. Suddenly the household is thrown into turmoil when a young lady shows up at the front door, claiming the boy who accompanies her is James’ son.

At her work Evelyn is investigating a case of an ex-soldier accused of killing his wife of three weeks. Everyone at the firm believes in his innocence but he shows a confusing lack of interest in defending himself of this capital crime. Evelyn’s life is further complicated by a handsome attorney offering her support and assistance. Evelyn is also trying to help a young mother regain custody of her children, a task that increases in urgency when she  learns about the so-called home children–orphans and non-orphans sent to Canada and Australia to be, in many cases, indentured servants. And through it all she faces the old-boys-club  of the British justice system.

Evelyn doggedly follows the clues in the murder mystery and faithfully works on the behalf of the young mother.  This is a complex and satisfying mystery although the content can be grim.  The reality of the shell-shocked soldier is just as valid today as we learn more about post traumatic stress disorder. (or battle fatigue  as they called it in WW2)

A  complex, interesting and worthwhile novel.

Orion Publishing Group (2009)


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Filed under books, historical fiction, mystery fiction, world war 1

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