Book Review: The Death Beat by Fiona Veitch Smith

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February 23, 2018
Book Review: The Death Beat by Fiona Veitch Smith
The Jazz Files - Fiona Veitch Smith

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Poppy looked up, her face pale, her hands shaking. “What is it, Poppy? ” “Oh my, Rollo, oh my. I think we’ve just struck gold.”

Poppy Denby is furious with Rollo, who has gambled away his position at the Daily Globe and is being banished to New York. That is, until she discovers he plans to take her with him to work at the New York Times! Poppy can’t wait to report on the Manhattan arts scene, but her hopes are crushed when she is allocated The Death Beat – writing obituaries. But Poppy has a nose for a story, and when a body is found in a luxury penthouse apartment she starts to investigate.She unravels a sordid trail of illegal immigrants, forced labour, sex scandals, and an unexpected ghost from her past. Poppy is determined to help the victims, but can she find the evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice without putting her own life in danger...

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Editor review

1 reviews

The Death Beat by Fiona Veitch Smith
(Updated: February 23, 2018)
Overall rating 
This is the third of the Lion Hudson crime series of Poppy Denby Investigates stories set in the 1920's following a cub reporter at The Globe newspaper in London. After exposing a couple of big stories thanks to her investigative skills with the adventures of the first two books,  "The Death Beat" see's Poppy and her friends boarding the RMS Olympic for a 3-month trip to New York. It seems that Rollo has made a bit of a bet with one of the owners of The New York Timesand they are in a paper-swap situation. The deal is that if he can double The Globe's advertising revenue then Rollo will sell him the paper. So that Rollo cannot interfere he is sent to a desk job in New York, and he takes Poppy with him because he doesn't want her getting any scoops to help his rival out.

So while Poppy finds herself marvelling at the Olympic and heading for first class, her paths cross with 2 Ukrainians woman who are in steerage and hoping for a new life in the fabled land of the free. Unfortunately, Immigration Control is going to be an issue for them when they arrive at Ellis Island, due to the fact that the younger of the pair has a reduced mental capacity. Poppy and the girls' paths will cross again as she takes her place in New York society.

When a rich Prince turns up dead Poppy and Rollo aren't sure things are quite as they seem. Could it be possible that he was killed by a family member? Not everything is as it first appears and New York society could be rocked by scandal. 

I haven't read the other two books in this series, but I do find the time period fascinating, and the social issues provide a great backdrop and escape from the issues of today. There is the issue of a woman's place which obviously impacts Poppy as a working professional, but in her personal life her boyfriend has more traditional ideas than Poppy is comfortable with. Although the woman's suffrage movement has won the vote, it still impacts this story as some of the characters were militant members of the movement. In the US there is a whole new range of social issues which include Eugenics, the roles of women, prohibition and others. One of the key areas of this story puts the focus on human trafficking as woman granted entry into the US through a backdoor find themselves in slavery in a factory with 'special' ones selected to entertain the boss and his friends. The story and inclusion of a potentially dodgy movie producer couldn't be more timely in consideration of the current issues surrounding the #metoo movement.

Although I enjoyed the setting and background to the story and the historical accuracy and research (and some confessed inaccuracy at the back of the book in the authors notes) the actual plot itself didn't really grab me. Some of the plot devices seem a little bit obvious and stereotyped and some of the characters seem to be there to simply fill those stereotypes and apart from a couple of moments don't really move the plot forward. Even with that said, the book is well written and plotted, but I found it too easy to unpick and work it out apart from the very final twist at the end.

It was definitely an enjoyable way to escape for a few hours though. There is passing reference to faith in this book, but the elements of social justice, immigration and a woman's role are more in the spotlight. If you want a strong independent female investigator set against a very strong historical backdrop then Poppy Denby is your woman and Fiona Veitch Smith is your author!

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