The ‘Bright Young Things’ of the 1920s were the celebrities of the time – the young people of a post First World War generation who seemed determined to have a good time at all costs. This book is set in 1925, and is the second in a series of “Mitford Murders” from this author. It does stand alone providing the basic characters are established; that the main part of the action is seen from Louisa’s point of view as a nursery maid and part time companion of the eldest Mitford sisters Nancy and Pamela. She featured in the previous book as having come from a very poor and abusive background, and meeting a young police officer, now sergeant, Guy Sullivan, before finding a work and home with the famous Mitford family. Having investigated one murder together they become embroiled in this activities of a challenging group of people once more. At this time only Nancy and Pamela are socially active, as the next sister Diana is only fifteen, and the other three sisters are still under the care of a Nanny, Louisa’s immediate boss. This is a carefully plotted book full of the settings and small details of life in London, even in its criminal underworld, and the family home of the Mitfords. The clothes are lovingly detailed, especially as the young people’s group is so concerned with a fashionable appearance. There is a lot of implied distinction between the classes in this book as well as references to the well known gangs of criminals. This is a fast moving book which deals with murder and its aftermath, and the trials of being stuck in a particular situation.
The book opens with a meeting of some young people to whose society Pamila is being introduced to, though they are known to Nancy. Louisa is present as chaperone and helper, but is conscious of the difference between her position and this group. A treasure hunt, a very fashionable activity at the time, is proposed as part of Pamela’s impending birthday celebrations. Sadly when it takes place there is a suspicious death, and Louisa’s friend Dulcie, a fellow servant, is arrested for murder of a young man. Louisa knows that Dulcie is not completely innocent of crime, and is indeed involved with the infamous Forty, a notorious gang of young women who shoplift in all of London’s expensive shops. By chance, Guy has seized his chance to investigate a spate of shoplifting in London together with a young female officer, Mary Moon. The respective paths of Guy and Louisa overlap at the 43, a nightclub which hosts illegal drinking among other dubious activities, and they discover a mutual interest in tracking down the truth.
This is an interesting murder mystery which also includes a lot of detail concerning the attitudes and lifestyles of various groups of people in London in the 1920s. I found it an entertaining and interesting read, as much for the social history as the mystery. Louisa and Guy are fascinating characters in their own right, and the connection with the Mitford girls is not as central as may at first be supposed. The family name does undoubtedly attract attention but is perhaps not essential to the plot. I found this a worthwhile read and does make the most of the research that the writer has certainly done.