The Kill Fee is the second book in the Poppy Denby Investigates series. I haven’t read the first book, The Jazz Files, but I had no difficulty reading this second book as it reads well as a standalone, with enough detail of previous events for me to follow the story.
It is set in London in 1920 with flashbacks to Russia in 1917. Poppy is the Arts and Entertainments Editor at the Daily Globe and whilst she is covering an exhibition of Russian Art at the Crystal Palace a guard is shot and injured and one of the Fabergé Eggs on display is stolen. It’s not just an extremely valuable Egg, one that had been owned by a member of the Tsar’s family, but one that is said to contain a secret that could threaten royal families throughout Europe.
This is reminiscent of the Golden Age crime fiction as Poppy sets about finding who stole the Egg and there are plenty of suspects. The theft is followed by a couple of murders and a poisoning, and a secret passageway as Poppy chases around London in hot pursuit of the killer.
Its an enjoyable read that kept me entertained with a mix of fictional and historical characters and a look at 1920s’ society. I particularly liked the Russian connection and the information about White and Red Russians and the Russian Revolution of 1917 – by 1920 this was coming to a head in the Crimea. The book begins with an episode in Moscow in 1917 as an unnamed man in a bearskin coat enters the house of an aristocratic family to find a scene of carnage. Most of the family have been murdered, but he rescues a small girl, her little dog and her English nanny. How this fits into the rest of the book only gradually becomes clear.
There is a map of 1920s London that helps to follow the action and a list of the fictional and historical characters that I found useful. Fiona Veitch Smith explains in her historical Note at the end of the book how she got the idea for The Kill Fee and how she blended fact with fiction. Apart from a few ‘tweaks’ she has stuck to the historical timeline, as far as she is aware, moving the Russian Embassy to Kensington Gardens seven years earlier than it really did and bringing forward the selling of paper poppies by one year – these were launched by the British Red Cross in 1921. The plotline of the theft of the Fabergé Egg and the exhibition at the Crystal Palace is a figment of her imagination. She apologises for ‘any unintentional errors you may find.’
Well, I did find another anachronism. At one point (page 209 in my paperback copy) Poppy and Daniel are arguing as he drives across London approaching the Victoria Embankment when he had to slow down ‘to allow a family to cross the road at a pelican crossing.‘ I think this must be a typing error as although pedestrian crossings existed more than 2000 years ago, (as can be seen in the ruins of Pompeii), pelican crossings weren’t introduced in the United Kingdom until 1969.
None of this affected my enjoyment of the book as the world of London in the 1920s came to life and the complex plot and fast pace kept my brain ticking over, keeping track of the different sub-plots and characters. The kill fee in the title refers to the money offered to Rollo, the Daily Globe owner and editor-in-chief, to stop him from publishing the story concerning the theft of the Fabergé Egg.
My thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for my copy of this book.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Lion Fiction (16 Sept. 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1782642188
- ISBN-13: 978-1782642183
This is my 10th book for the Mount TBR Challenge.
3 thoughts on “The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith”
I was thinking Maisie Dobbs or Daisy Dalrymple as I read your review. Are there similarities? Not that those two series are all *that* similar. I’ll keep an eye out for this series as it sounds interesting.
Cath, it’s been a while since I read any of the Maisie Dobbs or Daisy Dalrymple books, but they do cover roughly the same postwar period and like Daisy, who is a photographer for Town and Country magazine, Poppy is also a journalist. But I think the murder mystery is more complex and maybe less ‘cosy’. The Maisie Dobbs books are maybe darker and move into the 1930s as far as I remember. I like all of them – and then there are the Dandy Gilver books too – set in Scotland around the same time.
I’ve been wanting to try this series, Margaret. It looks well-written, and I do like the context. I’m glad you enjoyed this one.
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