First Line: They say when you believe you're about to die your entire life passes before your eyes in a flurry of poignant images, but all I could think of, rather absurdly, was that I should have worn the blue hat.
When Verity Kent receives an invitation to the engagement party of one of her deceased husband's friends, she almost doesn't accept. Only the cryptic letter she receives changes her mind. The writer suggests that Sidney Kent may have committed treason before his death during the final months of World War I, which would be laughable if not for the fact that the person also knows that Verity's war work was for the Secret Service. This engagement party being held on an island off the southern coast of England is gathering together all of her husband Sidney's surviving friends. It's Verity's best chance of learning the truth. She just hopes against hope that the truth she learns isn't that she never really knew her husband at all.
Modeled after Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Anna Lee Huber's This Side of Murder gives a pitch perfect portrayal of life in England immediately following the First World War. Once I began reading and took note of the similarities between the two books, I thought to myself, "If [a certain something] happens, I'm out of here." It didn't because Huber's book is not a slavish copy of Christie's.
First off, let me just say that I want Verity Kent's Pierce-Arrow. I love those cars! Huber's main character is an interesting one. Like the women of Bletchley Park, Kent had to sign the Official Secrets Act. She cannot speak of what she did during the war. The death of her husband hit her quite hard, and she's felt at loose ends for well over a year. She's tried going to lots of parties, drinking to excess, casual flirtations (antidotes that thousands of others tried throughout the Roaring Twenties), but nothing seems to work. Trying to learn the truth about Sidney seems to be the catalyst that's going to pull her back from the brink.
I like the fact that Verity isn't the female version of Dudley Do-Right. She knows more than most women about the horrors of war, and she's suffered loss, too. But she hasn't exactly kept a stiff upper lip and become married to her widow's weeds. She wants to feel better. She wants to get on with her life. She's just not quite certain of how to go about it. This frailty bodes well for the series. Speaking of the series, the pace is slow for This Side of Murder, but that's mostly due to Huber's setting up her cast of characters and future books. The plot of this book has quite a few twists and turns-- as it should when one keeps in mind the book it's modeled after-- so it's best not to speak of it to avoid giving anything away.
All in all, if I can't have Verity's spiffing Pierce-Arrow, I can have the next best thing: the second book in the series, please!
This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber
Kensington Books © 2017
eBook, 304 pages
Historical Mystery, #1 Verity Kent mystery
Source: Net Galley