Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders
A Woman of WWI I Mystery #1
By Tessa Arlen
Author’s website: tessaarlen.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
The start of an exciting new World War II historical mystery series featuring charming, quirky Air Raid Warden Poppy Redfern….
Summer 1942. The world has been at war for three long and desperate years. In the remote English village of Little Buffenden, the Redfern family’s house and farmland has been requisitioned by the War Office as a new airfield for the American Air Force.
The village’s Air Raid Warden, twentysomething Poppy Redfern, spends her nights patrolling the village and her days writing a novel of passion. It is a far cry from the experience of the other young women in town: within days, two of the village’s prettiest girls are dating American airmen and Little Buffenden considers the “Friendly Invasion” to be a success.
But less than a week later, Doreen Newcombe, the baker’s daughter; and the popular Ivy Wantage are both found dead. Poppy realizes that her community has been divided by murder, and the mistrust and suspicion of their new American neighbors threatens to tear this town, already grappling with the horrors of war, apart. Poppy decides to start her own investigation, but she soon unearths some unfortunate secrets and long-held grudges. She will have no choice but to lay a trap for a killer so perilously close to home, she might very well become the next victim.
With Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, author Tessa Arlen brings into focus the struggles of daily life during World War II and a spunky new amateur sleuth to life. Full of details about the Blitz in Britain and village life, it is a wonderful start to the promising Woman of WWII mystery series.
Life has changed a great deal for the residents of Little Buffenden with the advent of the war and the arrival of American airmen taking over Poppy’s grandparents’ home and farm. Poppy, with her canine corgi sidekick Bess, takes her nightly patrols of her village as an Air Raid Warden seriously. Dangers beyond the war arise when two local girls are murdered, and all signs point to the Americans. Poppy and her new friend, pilot Griff, set out to get to the bottom of things before more people die.
This book had me at the moment I first saw the dynamic cover (as much as I try not to judge a book by its cover, I am sometimes guilty) the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Bess prominently displayed. I am one of those crazy corgi pet moms. But, the author, whose other books I enjoy, the World War II backdrop, and promise of a good puzzle to solve drew me in. I really like Poppy; she is clever, intelligent, and resourceful. American Griff is charming and affable. It is hard to dislike a man who becomes friends with your grandparents and likes to cook. The village residents add variety and color to the story, but I wish readers got to know them better.
The mystery is engaging with some tension and misdirection. There are few suspects, and, unfortunately, the guilty party is easy to identify. The pace is a bit slow at times, and the tale lacks some action. We spend a lot of time with Poppy’s thoughts, and I do not know that I love her alter ego, the heroine of the book that she is writing. That said the details of the era, and the contemplation that I might not be right about the resolution of the investigation, kept me reading.
I liked Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders. There is lots of potential for great reading in future installments. Recommended to Ms. Arlen’s fans and readers of historical mysteries, especially those set against World War II.