I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, because the heroine is that rare creature in a historical fiction book; a person of colour. Heloise Chancey is a half-Chinese, high-class courtesan in Victorian London, living with her maid/mother Amah Li Leen and occasionally solving crimes. This is the second book in a series about Heloise, and I’m not sure how much backstory we missed in the first, but despite much of the book being told in the first person from Heloise’s point of view, I didn’t feel like I really got to know her at all.
The parts of the book told in third person with Amah as the protagonist were the parts I really enjoyed. Most people don’t think about the fact that Victorian London was a melting pot of different cultures, with sailors coming in daily on ships from all over the world. The dock areas were populated with Chinese, Indian, Malay, Jamaican, Zanzibaran and many more non-European folk, and it’s really a refreshing change to have them not just featured but actually star in a historical novel. Reading about Amah’s life experiences and her current way of life as a Malayan Chinese woman in London was enlightening and intriguing, as were the references to an early Chinese triad gang who came under suspicion for the murders in the book.
This isn’t a read for the faint-hearted; it’s billed as Agatha Christie meets Sherlock Holmes and there’s more than enough blood and gore in it to suit fans of either, including the gruesome murder of a young girl, and an attempted sexual assault which could prove triggering for some. The mystery was intriguing and I really didn’t figure out whodunnit until the reveals.
I did enjoy this, but Heloise was just too enigmatic a character for me to really get to know her, particularly with most of the book told in her first-person PoV. Four stars.
A Necessary Murder is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.