A Book Club Thriller - The Jazz Files

Posted at 09:45am on 26th January 2016

I suggested we read The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith for our January meeting of the book club I lead, partly because I’d seen the film, Sufragette, starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, and greatly enjoyed it.  Fiona’s book, the first in the Poppy Denby investigates series, is set in the 1920’s and has a good deal to link it with the suffragette period.  Indeed, the whole premise of the story relies upon the events of the era.

And what a story it is; a real page turner!

Fiona’s descriptions of the fashions of the time reminded me of my childhood, when my cousins and I would dress up in outfits which must, surely, have been worn by our grandmother.  Sequins and feathers abounded, I seem to recall, though there was little in evidence of that in the life of Poppy Denby.  Born into an austere and probably impoverished religious family, such items would have been frowned upon I suspect.  Just as Poppy’s job as a young newspaper reporter would have brought frowns to her parents’ faces.

There were other reminders of the era, of a less pleasing variety.  The way women were treated, for instance, often shut away in mental institutions for the slightest misdemeanour.  It reminded me of the research I undertook some years ago, for a novel I was writing about abortion, when a girl might be locked away for being pregnant out of wedlock.  Never mind that a male must have played his part for such an event to occur!  Men ruled, as Fiona so vividly portrayed.  And still do in most cultures.

The quality of Fiona’s writing cannot be faulted.  Everyone in my book club enjoyed the book and felt that as a ‘light read’ – or an Agatha Christie style ‘romp’ as one person put it – it was an entirely appropriate choice for the period straddling Christmas.  I shall look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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