This cosy yet intricate mystery shines a light on women’s collectives in the 1980s
When I reviewed the previous Cassandra Reilly mystery, Not the Real Jupiter, I wrote that I didn’t care much for Cassandra and that I might have enjoyed the book more had I read the ones that came before it. My enjoyment of this new novel seems to prove me right. The more I know Cassandra, the more I like her.
The death of Yvonne – Vonn – Henley is deemed a suicide by the London police but Cassandra doesn’t buy the old-depressed-lesbian narrative. Vonn was a leading figure in the lesbian publishing world in the 1980s, a strong character, a player, leaving women either smitten or enraged. Amateur sleuth that she is, Cassandra can’t resist the temptation to try and find some justice for Vonn.
I really like that Cassandra is in her late sixties or early seventies, as are most of the characters. They’re not decrepit but they’re definitely older and it’s a nice change. The mystery is rather cosy and intricate enough that I kept changing my mind on who I was sure the culprit was. This time, the plot is what kept me reading, even though I still like being in Cassandra’s head. It takes Cassandra, and the reader with her, on a journey in both time and space, to the Middle Ages and beguinage, to women’s collectives and queer liberation in the eighties, and to Bruges, in Belgium, as well as different places in England.
I found the relationship with Cassandra’s best friend Nicky, the bassoonist whose flat she shares in London, very nice. Friendship goals, those two. There’s also a whole gallery of secondary characters, some of whom are suspects as well, and I won’t detail them since it could lead to involuntary spoilers. All I’ll say is that I hope to see at least a couple of them again in future books. Cassandra grows to unexpectedly appreciate one of them and there’s potential there for another interesting friendship. There’s also a little romance, just enough to bring some excitement and light to a rather rainy and grim story. I didn’t need the romance to find Cassandra more interesting but it did show aspects of her personality that I didn’t know yet.
It may have taken me a little while to warm up to the Irish-American translator/traveller/sleuth but I’m now looking forward to her next adventures. 4⭐️