Today, I’m delighted to bring you my reviews of a six book series I highly recommend, having just thoroughly enjoyed reading book six.
The Poppy Denby series is widely available online and through bookshops.
I’ve enjpyed meeting and chatting to the author Fiona Veitch Smith at writing events, and have followed her writing and publishing journey from the time she originally self-published her children’s books I read and loved her earlier novel Pilate’s Daughter, and delighted in the increasing success of her present output as an established writer of commercially published fiction. I’ve also played a part in Fiona’s research when she posts her questions on the Facebook group to which we both belong in order to correct any anachronisms in her stories!
The Poppy Denby series is set in the 1920s, and with every book, Fiona has researched key events and issues of the time. There’s also lots of detail about 1920s fashions, which Fiona loves and has fully investigated – this includes dressing up in a gorgeous flapper dress and posing by appropriate props such as a vintage car or a 1920s typewriter for her book launches!
Poppy Denby is an investigative reporter for the London tabloid The Globe. Fiona has herself worked in the world of journalism and has personal experience of life in a newspaper office. With this series, not only do we get a highly entertaining read with characters who will captivate us, but also a strong sense of the major dramas of that era, enabling us to imagine how it would have been to live through those times, and giving us much greater insight into their meaning and significance for us today.
Here, then, are my six reviews:
THE POPPY DENBY MURDER MYSTERY SERIES
BY FIONA VEITCH SMITH
THE JAZZ FILES
A thoroughly engaging detective novel set in the 1920s. I loved the main protagonist Poppy and enjoyed the descriptions of her life establishing herself as an investigative journalist in the offices of the London tabloid newspaper The Globe. Other characters are also brilliantly drawn; Poppy’s actress friend Delilah, her boss Rollo, and the loathesome antagonists, Melvyn and Alfie Dorchester. The author draws a vivid picture of the struggle of the suffragettes and conveys the challenges of being a woman in a world where discrimination against women was condoned at every level. The narrative sparkled and was well-paced with powerful changes of tone and mood in scenes of tension and danger. An excellent Lion Fiction debut for Fiona Veitch Smith.
THE KILL FEE
I found this one even more intriguing and pacey. I love Rollo, Delilah, Novoski, and the author’s vivacious story-telling. I also like the way she brings into her story real people in the theatre world at that time (early twentieth century), such as Stanislavski and Lillian Baylis.
The background to the story involves the turbulent political events in Russia with the end of the Romanov dynasty and the rise of the Bolsheviks. The theft of two Faberge eggs starts the plot spinning, and Poppy, our intrepid journalist, is on the trail of a story for her newspaper The Globe; as she follows her instincts in unravelling the truth behind a jewel theft and a double killing, she and her actress friend Delilah find themselves caught up in a dangerous and deadly turn of events. Enthralling.
THE DEATH BEAT
This time, investigative journalist Poppy is in New York with her boss, Rollo, accompanied by her good friend, actress Delilah, and her aunt, former suffragette Dot.
She finds herself unravelling a case involving murder, stolen identity, a false claim on a fortune, a possible sex-slave ring, corruption in the film industry, two vulnerable female emigrees from the Russian revolution, and the mystery of who pushed the seaman into the machinery on the ship from Southampton. We meet again the villain Archie Dorchester from Poppy’s past.
I love the energetic narrative pace, the colourful evocation of the era, the accurate description of the fashions of the time, the way the author blends in real people, and above all the delightful and engaging principal characters. Now I move straight on to the next Poppy Denby book!
THE ART FIASCO
The story surrounds the art world, centred upon the backstory of a celebrated artist, and two suspiciously linked tragic deaths. Poppy is as ever warm, caring, empathetic but sharp, persistent, and discerning, and the story also takes forward the unresolved questions surrounding Poppy’s love interests. I found this story, the unravelling of the mystery and the truth behind the murders, to be closely bound up with complex family relationships, which I greatly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to the next Poppy Denby mystery!
THE CAIRO BRIEF
I loved this tale of Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Murders, grand theft and spiritualism surround the death mask of Nefertiti, and Poppy, our intrepid young journalist, is determined to get at the truth as the auction draws ever closer and we wonder which of four countries will get their hands on the priceless object. Of all the Poppy books this is the one that most reminded me of Agatha Christie, as Poppy constantly reviews and revises the list of murder and stalking suspects at the country house party. As ever I loved the cast of characters who reappear in each book – Poppy’s colourful boss Rollo, her love-interest photographer Daniel and her bete noir Lionel from the rival newspaper. A captivating read.
THE CRYSTAL CRYPT
It’s a fantastic sixth addition to the Poppy Denby series. This time investigative reporter Poppy – as persistent and discerning as ever – penetrates into the suspicious death of a brilliant woman X-ray crystallographer. Poppy plunges into the world of science in Oxford, and also into the heart of the kind of misogyny which will make present-day readers seethe (a misogyny which is still present in today’s society – but much more marginalised, and more strongly challenged). Poppy finds herself in the basement crystallography laboratory dubbed ‘The Crystal Crypt’ housed opposite Backwell’s Bookshop. I know Oxford quite well, and I loved all the detail of the places there, many of them familiar to me. The author did invent the hotel Poppy stays at, The Cherwell Hotel, so if anyone hunts for a room there as an alternative to The Randolph, they’ll be disappointed!
All the beloved characters are here – the wonderful newspaperman Rollo with his special connections into all levels of nefarious society; Melvyn Dorchester, the devious and currently imprisoned aristocrat, ready to strike a deal with the cunning and ingenious Rollo; Delilah Marconi, Poppy’s friend – sadly only a brief appearance this time – and Daniel Rokeby, who seems at long last to be on the right track with Poppy! I also love Ike and Ivan two loyal and resourceful staff members at The Globe.
In this novel, the author gets right to the heart of chauvinism and bigotry in the prestigious academic world of the 1920s. Poppy uncovers a conspiracy by jealous males to eliminate a brilliant woman; and the evidence for this kind of activity is overwhelming within recorded history.
As ever, Poppy encounters personal danger and does not flinch from putting her life at risk in the pursuit of truth. She is an exceptional character, and I highly recommend this mystery series to all fiction readers.