A Necessary Murder by M.J. Tjia Legend Press July 2nd 2018
Stoke Newington, 1863: Little Margaret Lovejoy is found brutally murdered in the outhouse at her family’s estate.A few days later, a man is cut down in a similar manner on the doorstep of courtesan and professional detective Heloise Chancey’s prestigious address. At the same time, Heloise’s maid, Amah Li Leen, must confront events from her past that appear to have erupted into the present day.Once again Heloise is caught up in a maelstrom of murder and deceit that threatens to reach into the very heart of her existence. In this second instalment of the Heloise Chancey Mysteries, M.J Tjia brings us another enthralling historical crime with twists and turns are as numerous and dark as the London streets which serve as their setting.
I love historical crime novels and A Necessary Murder is one that did not disappoint. Having not read the first in the Heloise Chancey Mysteries I was a little afraid I would have missed something but my fears were soon allayed as this is very much a standalone novel with no previous history required.
Revolving around the murder of a young girl, and a subsequent murder right on Heloise’s doorstep this is a novel with a huge amount of intrigue, plunging, you the reader, into a Victorian world of darkness.
Heloise herself, was definitely not your typical Victorian Lady, neither delicate nor fragile. She was a woman, who preferred the company of men of science, who was both headstrong and stubborn, yet vain, selfish and at times unlikeable. There were moments I felt sorry for her mother Amah, who Heloise treated more as her maid then her actual mother, yet you could feel that they had a strong bond and no doubt Helosie had a huge amount of love for Amah even if she did not show it at times. Despite her selfishness and vanity, I admired Heloise’s guts and determination to be treated as a man’s equal in a time when women were very much kept in the background and considered neither overly intelligent or too delicate for such matters as murder. She was a woman who was ahead of her time, but this is what made her character and indeed the setting of the novel so much more interesting.
Heloise was supported by a wonderful cast of characters who all had their own story and, indeed all had their own aura of suspicion about them. As the bodies mounted, it was very difficult to decipher who was innocent, who was telling the truth and what linked them altogether.
What stood out for me was the remarkably vivid descriptions of the backstreets of London. The grime and naked effluence that lurked in the back alleys and streets evoked images and smells that were dark, gloomy and at times gruesome. If you are of a delicate disposition then some of the murder scenes may not be for you.
The whole novel was steeped in darkness with the odd glimmer of brightness, often in the form of one of Heloise’s many dresses that she chose to wear. It also had a back story, that of Heloise’s mother Amah and her journey to England. I found it extremely poignant and very interesting, in fact it would have made a very good novel on its own if Tjia needed any ideas about what to write next!
A Necessary Murder is quite complex and the dual timeline and many strands were handled brilliantly by Tjia, the themes and strands brought seamlessly together. The ending was dramatic and very satisfying and I certainly felt justice had been done. It was nice that Tjia threw in a couple of surprises just to add that little bit extra tension and drama to a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I shall definitely be reading the next thrilling installment of The Heloise Chancey Mysteries.
Thank you to Legend Press for a copy of the novel to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the AuthorM.J. is a Brisbane-based writer. She has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary (UK), and longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her work has appeared in Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories.She is the author of She Be Damned: A Heloise Chancey Mystery, (2017) with the sequel to follow in 2018.Follow M.J. on Twitter @mjtjia