Mirabelle’s Epoque – skilfully blending mystery with history.

A review of “British Bulldog” by Sara Sheridan ( Polygon Books 2014)

I first encountered the lovely Sara Sheridan at an Edinburgh Women For Independence conference where she was one of the speakers. I was so taken with not only what she had to say about women and politics but also with her enthusiasm that I decided to look up her books once I got home.Sara-Sheridan

I am not usually a fan of murder mysteries and detective stories – I much prefer fantasy or sci-fi when it comes to fiction. However, Sara’s descriptions of her latest series about Mirabelle Bevan, a former Special Operations Executive agent in World War Two who now works for a small debt collections agency in Brighton have completely ensnared and captivated me. I quickly read the first two novels in the series – “Brighton Belle” and ” London Calling” and am hoping to get a hold of the third one, “England Expects” soon.

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Sara was kind and gracious enough to send me a copy of the fourth and latest chapter of Mirabelle’s adventures, along with some of her earlier works, for Glasgow Women’s Library, following chat on a visit to Glasgow. I believe that “British Bulldog” could be read as a stand-alone novel but would recommend that readers do seek out the previous instalments, as it follows on so well with the continuing stories of Mirabelle, her sidekick Vesta Churchil and Superintendant Alan McGregor. This story takes us from the familiar settings of Brighton and London to mid-1950s Paris. I don’t know very much about this era but Sara’s rich descriptions do make you feel that you are right there with well-researched attention to detail and tone.

This tale is one of escaping prisoners of war, Nazi colloborators and secret agents and weaves a story that brings in more details from Mirabelle’s past and her relationship with her late lover Jack Duggan. Mirabelle reminds me somewhat of Agent Peggy Carter Captain America: The First Avenger from the Marvel franchise, in that she is determined and courageous and not afraid to take risks, while being really stylish as well as multi-layered and at the same time carrying a torch for a lost love. Sara is not afraid either to tackle issues of the time, particularly around Mirabelle’s associate Vesta, a young black woman in post-war England.

The Mirabelle Bevan series is definitely one that I would highly recommend – strong, capable women in an era where it was still not entirely acceptable to be one, fast-paced action and intrigue in classy locations with an even balance of glamour and post-war austerity and a heroine with real emotion and depth. I do know that there will be more adventures of Mirabelle and her team in the offing and I for one am looking forward to them. If TV producers are searching for a new addition to dramas such as “The Hour” and “Call The Midwife” they would do well to get in touch with Sara.

“British Bulldog”  will be available for loan from Glasgow Women’s Library very soon.

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