Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose by T.A. Willberg – an historical novel with a twist of fantasy

Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose by T.A. Willberg

Marion is an investigator in the shadowy “Miss Brickett’s Investigations and Inquiries” organistion which operates under London in 1959, and in this novel she is tested in every way. This is the second book in a series, but as I read and enjoyed it without reading the first, I can confirm it works as a standalone as there is enough information about what has happened before. There are definitely perils to be faced in this book by Marion and others, as they have to investigate a murder and much else that is happening in Miss Brickett’s.

 I found this an exciting and inventive book which made the most of elements of fantasy in a very clever way. It features not only adventure, but the aspects of friendship and even romance that are realistic in a community made up of young people without external ties. There is the exciting element of the “gadgets” which pre date the items used by James Bond and others- including spy snakes, lie detectors and magical ropes. There is a clear element of danger in the introduction of the hunt for “the Florist”, a murderer who leaves a distinctive mark on his victims, and the infiltration of the organisation by someone closely associated with his crimes. Another theme is the emergence of a group within the organisation which imposes strict rules on its members; Marion and her closest friends wonder what it is about, who is organising it behind the scenes, and its effects on the organisation as a whole. There are some fascinating characters in this book, as it is told from Marion’s point of view who has evidently rejected what is left of her family, and who have accordingly become important to her. Bill is her greatest friend, but she is strongly attracted to an American colleague who has wide interests. She is loyal to Frank, who as a leader of the agency and a long-term Investigator comes to demand a lot of her. When she begins to receive mysterious messages from someone who obviously knows what is going on, she is torn about how much to keep it a secret.

This is a fascinating book which is imaginative but which also befits from a solid plot. The whole theme of “The Employee Rights and Protection Society” with its membership and organisation within an organisation is well done, and I really felt for Marion’s dilemmas. There are some well handled action scenes which add greatly to the excitement and twists and turns throughout that kept me guessing. Several of the characters apart from Marion herself are really impressive. I enjoyed Ambrosia Clementine Quinn and her notebook habit, and Bill is a real favourite. The element of humour in this book is really enjoyable and lightens the tone in a well-paced way. I would definitely be keen to read other books in this series, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a twist of fantasy and humour.