Welcome to my stop on the She Be Damned Blog Tour hosted by Legend Press. I have a review to share with you today! I love the mystery genre so it was a pleasure to review this as part of the blog tour. Please make sure to check out the other stops on the tour, see the poster below for more details.
Sent to me by Legend Press in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 01/08/17
Publisher: Legend Press
Format: Paperback, 288pp
Summed up in a word: Preparatory
Entering a new series at the ground floor is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I love the mystery genre so when Legend Press asked me to review She Be Damned I was eager to get involved. Tjia’s writing is gritty, forthright and compelling. Being totally honest, I did prefer the writing and setting over the plot and characters. Tjia puts the reader right there on the street with Chancey, steeping the reader in all the sights, smells and bustle of London in the 1800’s. I thought the plot was good, definitely successful in setting up Heloise Chancey series nicely, but it didn’t grab me as much as I hoped it would. I am interested in seeing where MJT is going to take this series, I just hope she elevates the story a little more next time. Full review below.
London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim.
The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate.
With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust, before the killer strikes again.
18th century courtesan Heloise Chancey has made a success of herself. A list of rich clients, a talent for stage acting and a side job doing undercover detective work for the local law enforcement. Her latest assignment is to find Eleanor Carter, a runaway who is possibly hiding away in the more vulgar and murderous communities of London. A serial killer is on the loose, preying on prostitutes and mutilating their bodies. The police believe that Eleanor may be the perfect victim for the sadistic killer, so Chancey has to be fast on her feet. She Be Damned is a classic murder mystery that is set in Tjia’s disturbingly vivid depiction of 18th century London.
I thought Tjia’s writing made this novel something really worth reading. The only problem with the book, in my opinion, was with the story. The plot is decent, a mystery within a mystery, but I don’t feel it was explosive or captivating enough to encourage the reader to invest in the series all on its own. My problem lies with the case she is working on in the novel, it seemed very basic, in both depth and intensity, and it was over just as quickly as it begun. I hope that Tjia brings a more challenging case to Chancey in the next outing.
Heloise Chancey is an interesting character, having built her life up from nothing to become a success, living a life of luxury after having paid a hefty price both physically and mentally. Being plunged back into the scene of one of the worst chapters of her life is stressful, fearsome and a dire warning to watch her back. She is popular with the police due to her particular brand of finesse and infiltration when investigating. There was a frustrating lack of details about her past before the novel so I hope that is explored more in future novels. Her relationship with her servant Li Leen is a perplexing one and it was one of my favourite mysteries involved in the book, I am glad that got resolved in book one as now I have a deeper appreciation for their relationship which will be great in further instalments.
The element of the book that kept me invested was definitely Tjia’s writing. She has certainly got talent and I am excited to see what she is capable of when this series is in full swing. Tjia’s writing is many things, elegant, gritty, sensory and forthright are only a few ways to describe it. Her descriptive detail and superb research is something to be applauded. I have given She Be Damned 3.5 stars as it was a good book with plenty of amazing elements that I hope to see more of in the future. She Be Damned is perfect read for all mystery and historical fiction readers that enjoy vivid imagery and want to invest in a series.
About M J Tjia
M.J. is a Brisbane-based writer. She has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary (UK), and longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her work has appeared in Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories. In early 2017 she will have a short story published in Review of Australian Fiction. Her first novel, She be Damned, will be released by Legend Press (UK) in 2017. M.J. has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies (QUT).
Follow M.J. on Twitter @mjtjia