Back at the end of March, I had the pleasure of joining the launch celebrations for Old Cases, New Colours (A Dudley Green Investigation) by Madalyn Morgan, although I sadly just couldn’t find a slot for reading the book (you’ll find the lovely guest post here). The ninth book in the Dudley Sisters saga (but don’t let that put you off for an instant – each book is complete in itself), it was independently published on 25th March and is now available for kindle and in paperback, via Amazon in the UK (e-book just £1.99, or free via Kindle Unlimited) and the US.
I did promise to read this one in April, and made it by the skin of my teeth – but sincere apologies to Maddie that it’s taken me rather longer than it should have to find the time to write and share my review. The e-copy I read was my own, purchased via Amazon for my kindle.
The last book of the author’s that I read was There Is No Going Home (it was really excellent, and you’ll find my review here), a sequel to The 9.45 to Bletchley. I hadn’t realised, until I started reading, that I’d entirely missed the last book that continued Ena’s story, She Casts A Long Shadow – but that really didn’t affect my enjoyment one bit, as this book rather takes Ena’s story in a different direction….
Sick of working in a world of spies and bureaucracy, Ena Green, nee Dudley, leaves the Home Office and starts her own investigating agency.
Working for herself she can choose which investigations to take and, more importantly, which to turn down.
While working on two investigations, Ena is called as a prosecution witness in the Old Bailey trial of a cold-blooded killer who she exposed as a spy the year before.
I really have to say at outset how very much I enjoyed this book – the world of 1960s private investigation might not be quite my usual reading, but I found it a particularly compelling and fascinating read, with a storyline and characters that drew me in from the very beginning and held me until the very end.
Ena is no longer working on the cold cases she dealt with at the Home Office – she’s taken over the Mercer Street offices, with renovations underway so that she and husband Henry can live upstairs, while downstairs will be the offices for her new private investigation agency, Dudley Green Associates. Money’s a little tight, and it looks as if she really won’t be able to join forces again with her wonderful sidekick Artie – but as the workload starts to build, the issues are overcome, and the pair are happily once more able to work together.
They’re handling three main cases – some strange goings-on centred on a hotel that have impacted the life of an old friend, theft and forgery at an art gallery, and a suspicious death at a nursing home – at first overshadowed by the Old Bailey trial of O’Shaughnessy, where Ena is a prosecution witness for her former nemesis. If that all sounds rather complicated, it most certainly isn’t – the author has a wonderfully firm grip on both characters and storylines, and weaves them all together in a way that makes this a really compelling read.
While the investigations themselves really hook you in, the pacing excellent, it’s perhaps the strength of the characterisation that I particularly enjoyed. I’ve spent time in Ena’s company before – but if you haven’t, you really don’t need to worry, it’s fine to start here – and I already knew how much I liked her. She’s feisty, driven, with an endearing sense of humour – and inclined to bend the rules in her eagerness to uncover clues and pursue successful outcomes for her investigations. I enjoyed the small insights into her life with husband Henry – it makes her a far more rounded character, much more than just an intrepid and rather unconventional PI. And her working relationship with Artie is just wonderful – as he settles into his new position as her assistant, the exchanges between them are perfectly done, sparkling and fizzing as she sends him on his next mission.
But there’s far more to this book than Ena and Artie and the progress of the investigations – there’s a wonderful cast of supporting characters, every single one really well drawn whether central to the action or just part of the periphery. I was particularly fond of new friend Priscilla, first encountered at an art gallery reception, with her peccadilloes covered up and indulged by her rich and loving husband: and, at the other end of the social spectrum, I really liked Mrs Hardy too, with her penchant for picking up the nearest duster and just getting on with whatever jobs need doing. The 1960s London backdrop is particularly well done – the clothes, the music, the feeling of living through a time of change created through small details – and felt both well-researched and authentic. And all the characters, without exception, are very much true to their time – you never get that uncomfortable feeling that any of them don’t entirely belong.
Much of the joy in this book is in its small detail – I really enjoyed the glimpses of 60s backstage theatreland, and learned a lot about the conventions of a Jewish funeral – but the investigations themselves are constantly captivating too, intricately unfolding, the tension everything I wanted it to be, and none of them with the obvious outcomes you might expect. And I really must mention the quality of the writing – I’ve enjoyed other books by the author, but this one takes it up several more notches, with its superb characterisation, the very best of storytelling, the vividness of the setting, the realistic dialogue and her perfect touch with the period detail.
I do hope this is a series that will continue – I’d really like to spend more time with Ena and Artie, and there must be so many unsolved cases in need of their special investigative touch. This was such a lovely book – and I very much recommend you give it a try.
About the author
I was bought up in a pub in a small market town called Lutterworth. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be an actress and a writer. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live with so many characters to study and accents to learn. I was offered Crossroads the first time around. However, my mother wanted me to have a ‘proper’ job that I could fall back on if I needed to, so I did a hairdressing apprenticeship. Eight years later, aged twenty-four, I gave up a successful salon and wig-hire business in the theatre for a place at East 15 Drama College and a career as an actress, working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television.
In 1995, with fewer parts for older actresses, I gave up acting. I taught myself to touch-type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau and began writing articles and presenting radio.
In 2010, after living in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth. I swapped two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write. Since then, I have written nine novels. The first four, The Dudley Sisters’ Saga, tell the stories of four sisters in World War 2. My current novel, Old Cases, New Colours, is a thriller/detective story set in 1960. I am writing a Christmas book – Christmas Applause – and a Memoir; a collection of short stories, articles, poems, photographs and character breakdowns from my days as an actress.
My earlier books are all available on Amazon – in paperback and for kindle.