This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
01.10.19 / Crime-Mystery / Legend Press / Paperback / 288pp / 978-1789550481
Target Audience: Readers who enjoy adventurous 19th century crime-mystery plots with multiple interesting female protagonists and intense moments of danger and violence.
About The Death Of Me
The Continent, 1864: Two bomb attacks, three deaths.
Clues to an elaborate assassination plot are intercepted in Paris and the authorities believe the assassin’s lair lies in Soho, London. Heloise Chancey, courtesan and professional detective, must go undercover to spy upon the nest of suspects and end their murderous conspiracy.
Meanwhile, her Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen finds herself trapped in a deadly nightmare of deceit and madness. Will she be able to escape before time runs out?
Danger keeps Heloise close company as she hunts evil down to its devilish source.
The Death Of Me Review
M. J. Tjia’s The Death Of Me continues the adventurous and daring escapades of Heloise Chancey, the 19th century courtesan and professional detective, who is yet again hot on the heels of another dastardly plot. Whilst visiting Paris Heloise is asked to attend a meeting in which she must intercept vital information concerning an assassination attempt. Looking for another rush of excitement and an opportunity for using the art of disguise, Heloise accepts the task. After a fight breaks out at the bar where the contacts are meeting, Heloise is slipped a clue about another clandestine rendezvous by an unknown patron. Heloise attempts to make the meeting herself and in doing so uncovers details of a heinous bomb plot that is about to rock London. With enormous pressure from the powers that be, and many near clashes with death, Heloise returns to London and is put to task to discover the origin of the impending threat before its too late.
Meanwhile Heloise’s maid Amah Li Leen decides to attend a request on her behalf due to her being in Paris. Amah meets a young couple who have obtained an object that is very dear to Amah, a potent reminder of a life she once lived. Amah’s reaction to its existence shows them that she will pay a steep price for the return of such a meaningful item. Amah can’t rest until it is back in her possession and has return to Liverpool to secure the money she requires to pay them. In her desperation to acquire the memento, Amah stumbles into a plot that imprisons her in a past she had tried to move on from. As the tension and the danger increase dramatically every step of the way, can Heloise and Amah survive long enough to succeed?
I was very interested in returning to this series after reading She Be Damned. I thought Heloise Chancey was an intriguing take on the classic heroine, the mystery and crime elements were satisfying and the 19th century aesthetic was charming yet harsh at the same time. The Death Of Me really amped up each of these elements massively and also included a story with real heart that gripped me from the get-go. Heloise’s plot was suspenseful, dangerous and exciting. She really doesn’t know who she can truly trust while avoiding death at every turn. Turning her fanciful decision to get involved in the case into the most threatening mission Heloise has ever to work her way out of.
It was compelling mix of adventure, espionage and in-your-face danger. Combine that with a plot with plenty of mysteries, uncertainty and potential villains and M.J. Tjia has crafted a brilliant read that can easily be done in one sitting. There are plenty of memorable points in Heloise’s story that stand out as true classic crime and mystery moments that will satisfy, scare and amuse readers. My absolute favourite was the moment Heloise is informed of her own murder whilst she is still disguised as a man. It really highlighted MJT’s ability to utilise different tones and atmospheres of storytelling and I thought it was excellent.
While I definitely enjoyed experiencing Heloise unravel the chaotic thread of events in which her life hangs in the balance, it was Amah’s story that I found the most intense. It is a stark contrast to Heloise’s outing, being far more deep and emotional, yet it is seems more important somehow. I followed every word of her tale with wonder, sorrow and everything in between. It is a harsh yet beautiful story that M. J. Tjia has put a lot of thought into and as I learnt more about her past, I was almost moved to tears. Amah’s plot is woven into the gaps between Heloise’s but it was those short moments that I desperately wanted to know more about. I felt so much for Amah and what she had to face, I was glad to walk in her shoes.
M. J. Tjia has crafted two incredible female protagonists that I couldn’t get enough of. Add that to an explosive main plot and a secondary tale of rediscovery and the fascinating settings of 19th century Paris and London that come alive within these pages and you have The Death Of Me. This series continues to succeed in every way and I cannot recommend it enough. I am already fixated on what might come next and I can’t wait to revisit Heloise and Amah again soon.
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.
She is the author of She Be Damned: A Heloise Chancey Mystery, (2017) with the sequel to follow in 2018.