Even in the insular world of book publishing, murder has its place.
British book editor Sam Clair has her routine—she gets up early to be in the office with her second cup of coffee before anyone else arrives—and she has her staple authors, those trusted to turn out best-sellers year after year. Kit Lovell, a feisty investigative writer deeply rooted in the fashion world, has just turned in one such manuscript, a book exposing the libelous inner workings of fashion giant Vernet, as well as evidence that the death of its head man, Rodrigo Alemán, was no accident. There are many people who would benefit from this never being published, and soon, a courier delivering the manuscript is dead. When Kit’s apartment is broken into, followed by Sam’s, it becomes clear that more than the manuscript’s future is at stake, especially when Kit misses an important work lunch. Sam won’t stand for her best author and good friend being kidnapped—or worse—and she steps in to investigate. Flanders creates a layered mystery in which fingers can be pointed in a variety of directions, from seedy lawyers to Alemán’s own brother. Helping Sam are her spitfire mother, Helena, her sweet but isolated upstairs neighbor, Mr. Rudiger, and Detective Jake Field, with whom she ultimately starts a relationship (though their building attraction is curiously never shown). With so much to wrap up, especially as Kit’s troubles are found to extend beyond his controversial reporting, the end result feels cluttered; in the rush to the finish line, delightful secondary characters get lost in the mix.
The first novel by historian Flanders (The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, 2014, etc.), though a bit frazzled, is full of charm and characters worth visiting again.