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by Barbara Cleverly
Carroll & Graf, July 2006
288 pages
ISBN: 078671736X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's 1926 and Scotland Yard Commander Joe Sandilands is called in to the brutal murder of prominent Dame Beatrice Joliffe, who was one of the founders of the Women's Royal Navy Society, the first women's military group in World War I. After a night of partying, she had been beaten to death in her room at the Ritz Hotel. The window had been broken and her famous large emerald necklace was taken. But the wily commander sees that the scene looks like a set-up as a burglary but is in actuality something else indeed.

Newly back in London from India, Sandilands must form a new team with which to work. He selects a former army man he had served with in the war, handsome, but wounded Sergeant Armitage, and Constable Tilly Westhorpe, the daughter of privilege and one of the new breed of woman who wants to work. Each team member brings their own talents to the investigation.

Because Dame Beatrice Joliffe was so famous and respected in her professional life, and so infamous in her personal life, Sandilands is cautioned by his bosses that he must keep any hint of scandal out of the public's view. News that the Dame was not necessarily the most loyal of Brits might bring down the new weak, after-war government that is fighting to keep the peace with the public and to calm the threat of a general workers' strike.

As the investigation progresses, many unsavory things about the Dame are discovered, including an estranged family who fight for power and her taste for the intimate companionship of both men and woman. When the Dame's latest female flame dies after a leap, or was it a push, off a bridge and two young beautiful women who served under her in the WRENS commit suicide, it's up to Sandilands to investigate on the sly because he is ordered to drop the investigation post haste!

From the very first page, THE BEE'S KISS will grab your interest and hold you captive inside the story. The picture of the post World War I London is fascinating with the people doing their best to show that with new moral values and the presence of the Jazz Age the old world from before the war had changed radically.

Commander Joe Sandilands is an educated and erudite man, who is well-traveled and partial to the high life. His associates are perfect examples of the people of that time. Detective Sergeant Armitage shows that even the lowly born can be exceptional soldiers and coppers and Tilly Westhorpe, who is now both a flapper and a policewoman, has the high-born breeding and world-weary education of the newer professional woman as she is one of the first of the women police constables.

By the end of the book, where the solution of the crime will both sadden and amaze you, writer Barbara Cleverly creates a solid mystery that is one of the best of its genre. This is not the first of the series but the first I've read. I am definitely going to seek out the other Detective Joe Sandilands Mysteries. THE BEE'S KISS is that good!

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, November 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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