Review published on May 18, 2017.
An Unlikely Agent by Jane Menczer is an old school murder mystery spy thriller. It is set in Edwardian London, amongst the foggy backstreets, with detailed descriptions and character features.
Margaret is an innocent girl living with her mother in a lodging house where the landlady produces some tasteless food and surroundings. The pair fell on hard times after the death of Margaret’s father. Going to work at the Bureau opens her eyes to another life, which she integrates into gradually, taking on more serious work.
It is a complicated novel that requires some concentration to work out the story, but it is worth persevering with. Trying to work out who the bad guys are and who the goodies are is all part of the process.
Margaret is on her own journey of self discovery, becoming an independent young woman and having the first stirrings of love, which are well written bearing in mind the restraints of Edwardian England. Having to cope with an elderly mother wears Margaret down, but she is totally bereft when she dies, a common response to the relationship between mother and daughter through all time.
The description of the foggy beach in Cornwall sets the scene for the action there in contrast to the streets of London, with the caves and sea.
I enjoyed reading An Unlikely Agent and immersing myself in Margaret’s Edwardian lifestyle and, while it was complicated in parts remembering who the characters were, this was offset by the delightful innocence of Margaret’s life until she became involved in the Bureau.
Glenda Worth 4/5
An Unlikely Agent by Jane Menczer
Polygon 9781846973802 pbk May 2017