Friday, January 20, 2017

"The Kill Fee" by Fiona Veitch Smith

Intrepid journalist Poppy Denby is back, this time investigating the theft of a Fabergé egg and, eventually, murder.

Poppy 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 Fabergé egg in the collection is stolen. While the egg itself is valuable, the secrets it contains within are priceless--secrets that could threaten major political powers.

Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Fabergé egg, a Russian princess named 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?

Fiona Veitch Smith offers up another rollicking mystery set in 1920s London, when women's emancipation, the Jazz Age, the consequences of the First World War, and the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution were rearranging the cultural landscape. 

Fiona Veitch Smith's Poppy Denby books are simply delightful! It did take me a while to get into The Kill Fee—largely because my Russian history is a bit rusty, and the talk of White Russians and Red Russians got a bit confusing. I finally quit trying to remember who was White, who was Red, and what that all meant, and I just enjoyed the story. (Also, Smith included a very helpful character list at the front of the book that I referenced multiple times.)

Poppy and her coworkers are all intriguing characters—especially her editor, American expat Rollo Rolandson. I hope that in future novels, we get to spend more time in Poppy's office because the characters there have so much potential.

I did find myself slightly disappointed by the lack of time spent on Poppy's relationship with photographer Daniel. Their relationship has presumably progressed since the events in The Jazz Files, but Poppy and Daniel spend precious little time together in this book ... and when they are together, they're often annoyed with each other. (Or, rather, Poppy is resenting the fact that Daniel worries about her safety and questioning whether Daniel would force her to quit her job and become nursemaid to his children should they marry. Daniel never once says anything that would indicate those feelings, and Poppy never asks him ... so I just found her musings to be annoying.)

The plot itself takes a lot of twists and turns, and I found myself genuinely surprised about some of the revelations ... though they all made perfect sense. The Kill Fee is a well-plotted mystery, and I enjoyed piecing it together.

Though the Poppy Denby series is set several decades before the ITV/PBS series Grantchester, I can't help but think that Poppy and Sidney would be great friends ... and they'd certainly solve many crimes together! And I can tell you this—if you like Grantchester or shows like it, you'll like the Poppy Denby series! I'm looking forward to the next installment. 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my review of Smith's first Poppy Denby book, The Jazz Files (4 stars).

Fiona Veitch Smith has worked as a journalist in South Africa and the UK and is now an Associate Lecturer in Journalism at Newcastle University.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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