Miss Aldridge Regrets
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Set mainly on the Queen Mary, a British ocean liner sailing from England to New York, Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare brings mystery as well as racial and class differences to life in this historical mystery set in 1936.
The story features Lena Aldridge, a mixed-race singer, dancer, and actor whose theatre career hasn’t lived up to her expectations. She’s singing in a basement club, her married lover has left her, a murder occurs at the club, and she’s being kicked out of her lodgings. When a stranger offers her a starring role on Broadways and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary, she ends up accepting it, despite knowing very little about the opportunity or the people. When a similar death occurs on the ship, Lena wonders what is happening.
Lena has ambition and is resilient. While she supposedly has common sense, she didn’t ask many questions of Charlie Bacon, the stranger with the offer. She accepts things at face value. Is this reasonable given her situation in London? Probably, but she did have alternatives that could have been explored. She’s definitely a flawed character, but she eventually shows growth. Readers become familiar with the main secondary characters overs time through conversations and actions.
This story captivated me from the very beginning. While most of the story is from Lena’s viewpoint, there are interspersed thoughts recorded in a diary by another person. Readers know this person is important to the plot, but will they be able to deduce who it is? The author brought the characters and the cultural lifestyles of the times and place to life. She provides clear physical descriptions of people, clothing, places, and food. While this is helpful in understanding the times, these could have been more concise and would not have slowed the pace as much. The book also switches timelines (multiple times) between the current trip on the Queen Mary and the events of a week before.
The plot has more layers to it than one might think. While the book did not leave me with a sense of astonishment and wonder, it did provide great insights into many factors of the times such as racism, drug addiction, drinking alcohol to excess, family dynamics, friendship, glamor, class dynamics, music, smoking, politics, attitudes about women, and much more. There is a strong sense of time and place giving the overall read great atmosphere.
Overall, this book was an enjoyable historical mystery and character journey. Readers that enjoy historical mysteries and the glamor and pitfalls of the 1930’s should check out this novel.
Berkley Publishing Group and Louise Hare provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for July 5, 2022. This review was originally posted at Mystery and Suspense Magazine.