The Death of Me by M.J. Tjia – A Heloise Chancey Mystery in Paris and London
Another Heloise Chancey novel, another chance to sink into a world of gorgeous Victorian dresses and the fashionable life of a highly intelligent and extremely well off courtesan. Heloise is more than a wealthy lady of fashion and the well organised woman who has her pick of society’s gentleman; she enjoys adventures which can, and do, draw on all her resources to investigate the suspicious and the missing. Within moments of this third volume of adventures which reintroduces her sparky attitude to life she is determined to solve the mysterious if risky spy world of Paris. Not that all is well in London where her faithful maid Amah must deal with her own challenges as the past seems once more to be threatening her present.
A terrific adventure in which the smells, sounds and sights of Victorian cities jostle with the enthralling Heloise as she takes risks in a fast moving and brilliantly researched setting where people and plot come truly to life.
While this is the third book in the series, I am confident that it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, which just might get you hooked on Heloise’s adventures. The small details of life, clothes and settings which are part of these novels shows a huge amount of not only research but also real visualisation and understanding of life in Victorian London. Heloise narrates her story, remembering her feelings of trepidation and excitement as she puts on her disguises which she feels are necessary to her work, even when it means dressing as a young man. Amah meanwhile is observed as she finds that her past has real implications for her present. Dangerous times for both women make this an exciting read, especially as Heloise becomes stuck in an impossible situation.
This book covers some excellent characters, including Mrs. White, Heloise’s friends and the servants that keep the houses going. While one story ends a little abruptly, the story that relates to the Prologue, of explosions and murderous fantasies, develops into an intriguing and surprising story. This is a book which does not disguise the reality of death and desperation, though never in a gratuitous way. There are hints of romance past and present, and Heloise’s relationships are always practical and reasonable. The details of beautiful clothes, expensive furnishings and special jewelry contrasts as ever with some of the less salubrious areas in which Heloise frequently finds herself. London and Paris are not just wonderful middle and upper class areas, but also places where poverty and survival are faithfully described.
I always enjoy these wonderful mysteries which maintain a fine pace and momentum, which means that they are never easy to put down. I have raced through this one, and would be eager to read any future adventures. Despite being quite slim books, they pack a lot of adventure in. Heloise is a marvelous creation, and her character develops well throughout the book. I recommend this book to all fans of historical crime and mystery, and Heloise Chancey is a character to watch for.
Those with really good eyesight may spot that I’m actually quoted on the cover of this book, which is very exciting. This is a series of books which is developing brilliantly, and I am hopeful of more to come.