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Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare - Review

Saturday, May 13, 2023

I can't remember where I heard about this book but it appeared in my reminders so I must have heard of it then set that for a few weeks ahead. I could have bought the book but it was available at the library so I put a hold on it. I picked it up soon after. I was expecting a thriller like something by Louise Candlish or Harriet Tyce, but I think it fell a little flat. 

So Lena is the heroine of the novel and she is a singer in a dive club called the Canary, in London in 1935. She works for a man called Tommy. Her best friend Maggie is married to him, but he has affairs and is running a brothel from the flat above the club. One night at the end of August, Tommy dies by cyanide poisoning in the club while Lena is on stage. Maggie is there, and Tommy's girlfriend Serena, and any number of other people who would want Tommy dead. There is a diary entry from the person responsible, explaining how they did it, but obviously the reader doesn't know who that is.

We meet Lena on the ocean liner the Queen Mary, sailing from Southampton to New York. She was contacted by an old friend of her father's and offered the chance to go to New York to be in a Broadway musical. This old friend thought he owed something to Lena's father, Alfie. It does seem like it's too good to be true, but everything in Lena's life was falling apart, so she jumped at the chance. 

Lena was brought up by just her father after her mother left. Alfie was black, and from New York. Lena's mother was white, and Lena is very pale skinned and can pass as white if she wants to. She is trying to pass for white on the boat, travelling in first class and upscaling her accent to try to fit in. The person she is travelling with, Charlie, wants her to try to integrate with some of the other travellers, who may then want to sponsor her or the musical. 

Lena meets a black man called Will, a band leader on board the ship, and starts a friendship with him. Charlie introduces her to the Abernathys, and wangles his way on to their table. They are patriarch Francis Parker, who is disabled due to a stroke and travels with his doctor, Dr Wilding, and nurse, Mrs Lancaster, and his daughter Eliza and her family. She is married to Jack, and she has children Frankie and Carrie. 

Francis Parker is murdered in much the same fashion that Tommy was, showing that someone is trying to show that Lena was at both murder scenes. It's not obvious who she can trust, but she barely knows what is going on. 

I enjoyed the book up until about 4/5ths of the way through. I didn't believe the revelation of who was behind it all, and it wasn't very exciting or thrilling. I liked Lena and the boat setting, and several of the characters are likeable, or likably unlikeable, but I just felt the motivation behind the whole thing just didn't ring true. I'm giving this three out of five. 

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