Does the camera ever lie?
1911: After the violent murder of three policemen in the line of duty, tensions between London constabulary and Whitechapel anarchists simmer. Meanwhile accusations and counter accusations of espionage further weaken relations between Germany and Britain. Can Margaret Demeray and Fox find out which potential enemy is behind a threat to the capital before it’s too late?
In the shadow of violence in the East End, just as Dr Margaret Demeray starts to gain recognition for her pathology work, a personal decision puts her career at the hospital under threat. Needing to explore alternative options, she tries working with another female doctor in Glassmakers Lane. But in that genteel street, a new moving-picture studio is the only thing of any interest, and Margaret’s boredom and frustration lead to an obsessive interest in the natural death of a young woman in a town far away.
Meanwhile intelligence agent Fox is trying to establish whether rumours of a major threat to London are linked to known anarchist gangs or someone outside Britain with a different agenda. When another mission fails and he asks Margaret to help find out who provided the false intelligence that led him in the wrong direction, she can’t wait to assist.
But enquiries in wealthy Hampstead and then assaults in poverty-stricken Whitechapel lead unexpectedly back to Glassmakers Lane. How can such a quiet place be important? And is the dead young woman Margaret a critical link or a coincidental irrelevance?
Margaret and Fox need to work together; but both of them are independent, private and stubborn, and have yet to negotiate the terms of their relationship.
How can Margaret persuade Fox to stop protecting her so that she can ask the questions he can’t? And even if she does, how can they discover is behind the threat to London when it’s not entirely clear what the threat actually is?
This was a jolly romp through pre-first world war London, a tale full of intrigue, espionage, murder and early moving pictures. There is also an uncurrent of terrorist threats from anarchists, plus references to the beginnings of the suffragette movement. The history of the movies and a series of true events is very interesting.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s different from my usual genre though I sometimes venture into historical fiction, but this had the added enticement of sharp humour and witty repartee between the two main protagonists Margaret and Fox. They are both really interesting characters. Margaret Demeray, widowed and in her mid-thirties, is a doctor. That was very rare for women at the time, but Margaret isn’t just any doctor, she’s a pathologist at St Julia’s, where she helps the police uncover suspicious causes of death.
Fox on the other hand is a spy. He is trying to find out, with the help of his friend Charles, if the major threat to London is a plot by anarchists or is it part of something much bigger, something that could mean war between Britain and Germany. Much of the time they must work undercover and Fox’s whereabouts are a secret, kept even from Margaret.
In the meantime, Margaret is inadvertently being drawn into a web of espionage. She believes that the death of a young woman which she witnessed in Paris was not natural causes, but does she realise how much danger her ‘obsession’ with the woman is putting her in.
However, my favourite plot revolves around the involvement of a new moving-picture studio opposite the doctor’s surgery where Margaret is working part-time. Here we have a cast of interesting characters who appear to be innocently making silent films, but are they all as innocent as they appear?
This is such a good story and I really couldn’t put it down.
Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.
About the Author
Paula Harmon was born in North London to parents of English, Scottish and Irish descent. Perhaps feeling the need to add a Welsh connection, her father relocated the family every two years from country town to country town moving slowly westwards until they settled in South Wales when Paula was eight. She later graduated from Chichester University before making her home in Gloucestershire and then Dorset where she has lived since 2005. She is a civil servant, married with two adult children. Paula has several writing projects underway and wonders where the housework fairies are, because the house is a mess and she can’t think why.