Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare – review

Published by HQ

Publication date – 28 April 2022

Source – review copy

London, 1936

Lena Aldridge is wondering if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho and her married lover has just left her. She has nothing to look forward to until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York.

After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. Until death follows her onto the ship and she realises that her greatest performance has already begun.

Because someone is making manoeuvres behind the scenes, and there’s only one thing on their mind…

MURDER

Lena Aldridge is about to set sail on the Queen Mary, ready for a new life in New York as a Broadway act. It’s all come at the right time. She has just witnessed the murder of her boss and it seems that New York is the only chance she has at a new life. On board she meets the rich, and dysfunctional Parker/Abernathy family. However, all too soon Lena realises that the murders haven’t quite finished yet.

Now I love a good murder mystery. Especially if it’s a period piece, has a striking location and is filled with glamourous people. Luckily Miss Aldridge Regrets has all of them and more.

Lena Aldridge is a no nonsense woman who wants more from life than it currently offers. She spends her evenings singing at a grimy basement club, not only because she needs the money but because she needs to sing. She puts up with a harridan of a landlady and knows that her relationship with a married man is going nowhere. She doesn’t know what she wants other than more than she has at the moment. She is wary when Charlie Bacon arrives from nowhere, offering her a dream role on Broadway. It seems too good to be true and she’s about to turn him down when circumstances conspire against her. Her sleazy boss is murdered in front of her. It seems the only thing she can do is take the chance Charlie is offering her.

As she steps aboard the Queen Mary she is aware of how out of place she feels amongst the glitz and money of First Class. She knows that if the other passengers knew who she was, the daughter of a black man, she would be shunned. So when she meets Frankie Abernathy by chance she allows him to think she is of Italian descent, to pass as something other than who she is. She soon learns that she is not the only one pretending to be something other than they appear.

Soon Lena is drawn into the family dynamics and politics of Francis Parker’s family. The Patriarch, brought down by old age and illness, still wields control over his daughter Eliza Abernathy, her husband Jack and their children Frankie and Carrie. Also accompanying them are Francis’ assistant Daisy and his doctor, Dr Wilding.

Of course things are not as rosy as they seem and Lena soon comes to learn that the Abernathys have their own secrets to keep. When a murder occurs Lena realises that things are not as they seem and that something darker is at work.

The story moves between the present day time on board the Queen Mary to the few weeks before leading up to and including the murder of her boss Tommy. As it does, more is revealed about Lena and her past, and how it is linked to the present.

Lena is a complex character. She has her dark side and isn’t perfect. She broke the law, or bent it, on occasions in her youth. She drinks too much, smokes too much, has affairs with married men. She knows she could do better, should do better but doesn’t know how. She also is aware that she doesn’t face the levels of racism as much as her father Alfie did. Her fair skin means she can pass as white, though this also makes her uncomfortable and disloyal, realising she is shrugging of an important part of who she is.

The Abernathys are spoiled, entitled and insular. They are used to getting what they want and Lena feels very little kinship with them. She notices how money has made them, how they are so used to being served and getting what they want they lack the common courtesy towards others. Lena is conflicted for though she would like more money, she can see what wealth can do.

There is a wonderful, old fashioned closed mystery feel to the book. Yes it takes place on a giant ship, but the other passengers and crew fade into the background as the story focusses on Lena Aldridge, Charlie Bacon and the Abernathy family.

I loved the setting of the book. The ship shows a microcosm of society, split into classes, those lines forgotten when brought together for church service for example. There isn’t much mention of the lower classes, other than when Lena walks between them all, easily able to fit in wherever she is. I enjoyed reading Miss Aldridge Regrets immensely and it was always a pleasure to pick up where I had left off.

When Lena meets Will on board she sees in him something akin to home. She is drawn to him in a way that she is not with those in First Class. She is on edge when around the money and glitz, more at home in the stripped back surroundings of the lower part of the ship, more comfortable when she is singing than watching the acts.

A perfectly paced, glamourous, golden-aged set murder mystery. I, unlike Lena Aldridge, have no regrets about reading it.

Recommended.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. This does sound good. I tried to get the ARC of this, to no avail!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It’s very good. I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

      Liked by 1 person

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