Book Review Double Feature: The Jazz Files and The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith

January 21, 2017 Christian, Fiona Veitch Smith, historical, mystery/suspense 5

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about the bookIntroducing Poppy Denby, a young journalist in London during the Roaring Twenties, investigating crime in the highest social circles!

In 1920, twenty-two year old Poppy Denby moves from Northumberland to live with her paraplegic aunt in London. Aunt Dot, a suffragette who was injured in battles with the police in 1910, is a feisty and well-connected lady.

Poppy has always dreamed of being a journalist, and quickly lands a position as an editorial assistant at the Daily Globe. Then one of the paper’s writers, Bert Isaacs, dies suddenly–and messily. Poppy and her attractive co-worker, photographer Daniel Rokeby begin to wonder if it wasn’t a natural death, but murder.

After she writes a sensational exposé, The Globe’s editor invites her to dig deeper. Poppy starts sifting through the dead man’s files and unearths a major mystery which takes her to France–and into deadly danger.

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SERIES: Poppy Denby Investigates #1
GENRE: Historical Mystery
PUBLISHER: Lion Fiction
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2015
PAGES: 288

“It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven … you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove useful to a story we’re working on now.”

The Jazz Files is a British historical mystery with a unique setting and a unique cast of characters.  Poppy Denby is a very likable heroine, a young woman from a sheltered background navigating her way through London at the height of the Roaring 20s. You can almost hear jazz playing as a soundtrack of sorts to her adventures, so vivid is the setting and mood.

The other characters are just as vibrant. Rollo – her boss at The Daily Globe, a small American with a large personality. Poppy’s Aunt Dot – still a bit of a diva in her own right. Delilah – Poppy’s best friend, an actress, modern and feisty but still vulnerable. And a hodgepodge of other colorful people we meet along the way.

Image source: Museum of London archive

As far as mysteries go, this one was full of suffragette history which added another layer of intrigue if you’re a history geek like I am. The pacing lagged a bit at times but overall this was well-plotted and well-played. Reading about the struggles that Aunt Dot and her suffragette friends faced in the past … and the battles any woman trying to break out of the traditional mold still faced … made me proud to be female and grateful for those who paved the way for the freedoms I take for granted today.

Bottom Line: Poppy Denby is a refreshing face in the historical mystery genre. She’s strong but feminine and she’s easy for any one to relate to, no matter your background or walk of life. Her newspaper job, her forays into the jazz scene, her aunt’s suffragette friends – all of these add further dimension to Poppy’s character and make the read that much more layered. Some of the history overpowers the plot in some instances, but overall it adds to it. The mystery, including the occasional switch to Elizabeth’s perspective, is typically British and while slow in parts it remains intriguing throughout.

Reviewer’s Note: As this book is written by a British author, it contains some words and themes which American readers may not be used to seeing in Christian fiction.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 3.5 / Pleasant read!

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about the bookPoppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, covers an exhibition of Russian Art, hosted by White Russian refugees, including members of the surviving exiled Romanov Royal family. There is an armed robbery, a guard is shot, and the largest Faberge Egg in the collection is stolen. The egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within – secrets that could threaten major political powers.

Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Faberge Egg, a Russian Princess called Selena Romanova Yusopova. The interim Bolshevik Russian ambassador, Vasili Safin inserts himself into the investigation, as he believes the egg – and the other treasures – should all be restored to the Russian people.

Poppy, her editor Rollo, press photographer Daniel, and the other staff of the Globe are delighted to be once again in the middle of a sensational story. But, soon the investigation takes a dark turn when another body is found and an employee of the newspaper becomes a suspect…The race is on to find both the key and the egg – can they be found before the killer strikes again?

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SERIES: Poppy Denby Investigates #2
GENRE: Historical Mystery
PUBLISHER: Lion Fiction
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2016
PAGES: 320

Poppy Denby is back, and she could certainly give Nancy Drew a run for her money! This time, instead of suffragettes, we have spies and Russians and canes that hide rapiers. Poppy doesn’t know who she can trust, and neither does the reader.

Most of the usual – and colorful – cast of characters returns, with several new and equally vibrant additions. One of my favorite characters continues to be Rollo, Poppy’s boss at The Daily Globe. He may be short in stature (and American) but he’s got a big personality and a big heart (though don’t accuse him of that). I’m also enjoying the subtle romance between Poppy and Danny, although I suspect Danny’s feelings run deeper than Poppy’s do.

Image Source: The Daily Mail

The mystery – two really, much like in The Jazz Files – revolves around the Russian revolution and the philosophical battle (sometime physical) between the White Russians and the Red Russians who have taken refuge in London. Faberge eggs abound, and I think those always carry a bit of mystique and intrigue anyway. Add in some Romanovs, some missing aristocrats, a handful of spies and thieves, and a murder or two and you’ve got yourself a fascinating little mystery. Tensions run high in this one – and so does the danger!

One small issue I did have: While I realize that this book is set several months since the first one, it still felt sometimes as though I’d missed a book in between. I even double checked to make sure I hadn’t. The author fills us in on critical things, to be sure, but comments were made or events were referenced and it seemed I should know about them. But I didn’t. A minor thing but it caused a bit of confusion at first.

Bottom Line: Of the two Poppy Denby books out so far, The Kill Fee is definitely my fave! Lots of action, lots of suspense, a little more romance, and one of the most intriguing (to me) periods of European history. I really like the character of Poppy and her team at the Globe, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her adventures.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / Enjoyed it!

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about the author

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. ‘The Jazz Files’ is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in the 1920s. Her standalone novel, ‘The Peace Garden’, is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa. Her ‘Young David picturebook’ series (illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) are based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet – preferably not at the same time!

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What about you? Would you rather read about suffragettes or the Russian treasure keepers?


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