Katherine Woodfine’s latest mystery adventure story returns to the world of Edwardian London, and particularly to Sinclair’s Department Store, where amateur detectives Sophie and Lil work and where they solved their first puzzling crime in The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Although this new title is a sequel and sees the return of familiar characters it can easily be read as a standalone story as a brief synopsis early on familiarises readers with previous events and they will soon find themselves caught up in new intrigue as Sophie and Lil, together with fellow Sinclair’s employees and mystery solvers, Billy and Joe, become embroiled in an adventure involving the theft of the Jewelled Moth. This stunning jewel, presented to debutante Veronica by her prospective suitor, the wealthy and influential Lord Beaucastle, has disappeared and Veronica is desperate to recover it before Lord Beaucastle discovers its loss.
The world of London’s China Town is drawn into this story via the character of Mei Lim whose family runs a shop in Limehouse where businesses are being threatened by the villainous Baron, Sophie and Lil’s adversary in their previous adventure. Gradually all the threads of plot draw together as Sophie, Lil and friends solve clues, crack codes and put their lives in danger to discover thieves, murderers and fraudsters and to make the connection between the Jewelled Moth and the Lim family’s Moonstone Diamond and to expose Lord Beaucastle and the Baron as one and the same person.
This latest addition to the current trend for lively historical detective stories with strong female leads will delight readers with its satisfying plot, appealing characters and combination of light-hearted tone with suspenseful action and social comment. The attention to Edwardian period detail and the wonderful descriptions of Sinclair’s Department Store and the Lims’ shop in China Town, each enticing in their own way, add sparkle to the story. Mei is a strong new character and the contrast between the lives and expectations of debutantes, shop girls and East End dwellers is well portrayed. The book is beautifully produced with an eye-catching cover, detailed vignette-style endpapers and a text broken up by newspaper clippings and extracts from a guide to etiquette for debutantes. This entertaining and fast-paced story with its resourceful heroines should keep old and new fans happy and there are enough intriguingly unresolved threads to ensure a readership for Sophie and Lil’s next adventure.