Mini-reviews: Transcription by Kate Atkinson & Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens

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:

1.A Murder Most Unladylike
2.Arsenic for Tea
3.First Class Murder 
4.Jolly Foul Play 
5.Mistletoe and Murder
6. Spoonful of Murder

Rating: 8 – Excellent  (for both)

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