Of Soul Sincere is the second mystery from the pen of crime writer B Lloyd. I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy from Netgalley, and am delighted that I did.
How to write a spoiler free review of a mystery novel? Well I think the best place to start is with the wonderful protagonist Julia Frobisher-Warren (crime novelist and amateur sleuth).
It’s the end of the roaring twenties; the age of the bright young things, and JW is the embodiment of the new woman of the interwar years. The history is perfectly presented and not overwhelming. JW is reluctantly engaged to write up a politicians memoirs, and in the process uncovers a mystery going back to the eighteenth century. We have a haunted house, and unexplained deaths, as well as the pressure of her day job all playing on our heroine’s time and energy.
This is not merely a pastiche of the grand tradition of a Christie detective, though. Warren is a sparkling presence as I turned the pages. There is a gothic element to the mystery that really grabbed me, and kept me reading late into the night as well as humour - which I always appreciate. The history is integral to the story, again something I like, and as the novel unfolded, I was struck by how cleverly put together the plot was. It kept me guessing throughout, which is the prime requisite of a mystery. There’s no point if you can figure out what’s going on before the denouement.
The writing is of the highest order, clever, very clever indeed. The use of present tense, in places, to heighten the air of immediacy was brilliantly done. I’m not normally a fan of present tense - in fact since Wolf Hall so many people have tried to imitate the style that it has become almost a cliché - but Miss Lloyd is selective about deploying the technique, and it works very well here. It is expertly crafted, and a joy to read.
This is a novel that took me out of my usual comfort zone (I’m normally a sword and sandals kind of guy) but it is, frankly, superb. I passed my electronic copy on to my mother, who is a highly critical fan of the genre, and she is also smitten. When I spoke to her this evening at 8pm, Mam was already tucked up in bed reading it on my tablet - she hates electronic copies, but couldn’t put it down - I’m going to have to get her a hard copy of Greenwood Tree (the first JW mystery) for mother’s day!
This came highly recommended to me and I can understand why, brilliant writing, a great heroine, and a page turning plot. What more can one ask for?