*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Death is the rule, survival the exception in 1960s Soho bridge circles.
When the SeeMs Agency detectives play bridge online in 2020, they don’t expect their opponent to die during the game and yet a post-mortem the next day proves Brian Deliverer was dead halfway through the night. Can a dead man play bridge?
Employed by Brian’s daughter Karen to investigate his death, the team are led back to a notorious 1920s murder and to a missing teenager from a Sussex village in the 1960s. Should they tell his daughter the terrible truth behind her father’s death even if it costs her everything?
I read this book as a standalone mystery, and the plot works well for that, but I couldn’t help feeling that I was missing out on lots of character development and backstory (hinted at intriguingly throughout!), so I would definitely recommend reading The Mystery of the Lost Husbands first if you can.
For those new to the series, like me, the three main characters, Miranda, Cat and Stevie, are all very different and have leveraged their range of talents to run a detective agency. The mystery plot is split over two timelines: the Soho (bridge) club scene of the Sixties, alternating with the UK pandemic lockdown of more recent times. This is the first book I have read to use the pandemic as a background setting without it being a major part of the plot, and I think it worked really well – it tickled me to read about the Zoom-call witness interviews, socially-distanced walking meetings, and the stress over wearing or not wearing a mask in various situations.
Quite a lot of research clearly went into the background of the story, in terms of both the Polari slang language and the game of bridge respectively (if you read the author info below, you will see she had no need to research the flying bits!). I found the slang easy enough to understand in context – and the author kindly provided a glossary at the back for the less intuitive terms – but I know nothing at all about contract bridge (or Chicago, or rubber). Luckily, you don’t need to know the details of the game to be able to understand its relevance to the murder case.
The whole mystery revolves around the Deliverer family and its secrets, and how they link to a fatal, famous game of bridge, and there were so many twists and turns, red herrings and feints, that I confess I was completely bamboozled right up to the big reveal at the end. I do enjoy being kept guessing!
This is the ideal mystery read for anyone who likes them complex and multi-layered, and I highly recommend you read the series in order to get a grounding in the investigative trio before diving in.
Then something flashed through her memory: she’d seen this hand before.– Gina Cheyne, Murder in the Cards
Of course! It was in Andrew Robson’s Sunday podcast – the podcasts she did daily in the vain hope of improving her play.
Mr Bennett’s murder: a failed bridge game in the 1920s where a wife shot her husband after he played the hand badly. She used his own gun, and she was acquitted. Was this the hand they were asked to play for? Why? Was there some correlation between this game and the crime Simian was about to reveal?
About the author:
Gina has worked as a physiotherapist, a pilot, freelance writer and a dog breeder.
As a child, Gina’s parents hated travelling and never went further than Jersey. As a result she became travel-addicted and spent the year after university bumming around SE Asia, China and Australia, where she worked in a racing stables in Pinjarra, South of Perth. After getting stuck in black sand in the Ute one time too many (and getting a tractor and trailer caught in a tree) she was relegated to horse-riding work only. After her horse bolted down the sand, straining a fetlock and falling in the sea, she was further relegated to swimming the horses only in the pool. It was with some relief the racehorse stables posted her off on the train into eastern Australia to work in a vineyard… after all what could go wrong there?
In the north of Thailand, she took a boat into the Golden Triangle and got shot at by bandits. Her group escaped into the undergrowth and hid in a hill tribe whisky still where they shared the ‘bathroom’ with a group of pigs. Getting a lift on a motorbike they hurried back to Chiang Rai, where life seemed calmer.
After nearly being downed in a fiesta in Ko Pha Ngan, and cursed by a witch in Malaysia, she decided to go to Singapore and then to China where she only had to battle with the language and regulations.
Since marrying the first time, she has lived and worked in many countries including Spain and the USA.
For a few years Gina was a Wingwalking pilot, flying, amongst others, her 64-year-old mother standing on the wing to raise money for a cancer charity. She was also a helicopter instructor and examiner and took part in the World Helicopter Championships in Russia and the USA.
She became a writer because her first love was always telling a good yarn!
Under the name Georgina Hunter-Jones she has written illustrated children’s books such as The Twerple who had Too Many Brains, and Nola the Rhinoceros loves Mathematics.
She now lives in Sussex with her husband and dogs, one of who inspired the Biscuit and Pugwash Detective Series about naughty dogs who solve crimes.
Murder in the Cards is the second in the SeeMS Detective Agency series.
You can find more from Gina Cheyne on her website, and Murder in the Cards is available to purchase on Amazon right now!
Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this tour (see the poster below for details) for more great content and reviews.