One of my favourite couples is back, investigating within the Suffragette movement
I didn’t realize I’d missed Ada and Louisa so much! Sarah Bell’s debut, The Murder Next Door, was one of my favourite books of 2021, and one of the reasons for that was this established couple, two women in their mid-twenties who couldn’t be more different nor more suited to each other. Ada is passionate, an artist from a working family. Louisa is more subdued, wealthy, levelheaded. And questioning why she doesn’t desire the woman she loves the way she thinks she should.
The plot this time involves the Suffragette movement (the title and cover are pretty explicit on that), a murder, spying, blackmail and more, and all sorts of interrogations and reflections on morality and necessity, on equal rights and class struggle, on forbidden love and propriety, on family and duty. Ada and Louisa face hard choices and though the author could have made some of them seemingly easy, she avoids that trap and highlights the grey areas politics and the advancement of a fairer society often entail. Real people and events are sprinkled in but even without them, the story, the vocabulary, the atmosphere would have felt immersive, making the characters’ moral dilemmas all the more relatable.
If you haven’t read The Murder Next Door, I strongly suggest you start there then move on to Deeds and Words. While it’s not absolutely required, there are a few characters whose backstories you’ll need, but most importantly you’ll have more insight into Ada and Louisa, both as people and as a couple. And they’re so lovely and interesting, you’ll want to spend more time in their company. 4.5 stars.