Operation Goodwood

Written by Sara Sheridan

Review written by Victoria Goodbody

Operation Goodwood
RRP: £19.99
Released: April 7 2016

Operation Goodwood is the fifth novel in a 1950’s based crime series. They are all set in Sussex, with the majority of the books focusing upon Brighton. Despite only having read the first and third books in the series, it was easy and a joy, to pick up where I’d left off.

Our central characters Mirabelle Bevan and Vesta Evans are co-owners of a debt collecting agency McGuigan and McGuigan. The nature of their work leads them into investigating and solving murders. The first novel saw them investigating the murder of their original boss Ben McGuigan, with the aid of Superintendent McGregor.  Subsequent novels have seen the pair investigating nefarious goings on at a London jazz club, and the Brighton Pavilion.

This excursion begins at Goodwood race track, where Mirabelle and Superintendent McGregor are watching the racing. We see Dougie Beaumont win a big race. The novel then moves to Brighton where Mirabelle’s block of flats catches fire one night. We soon learn that the flat above Mirabelle’s has been bought by Dougie Beaumont; when his dead body is brought out by firemen. Mirabelle soon suspects arson and then later, murder. She is soon proved to be correct.

Mirabelle aided by her sidekick Vesta begin to investigate what’s going on. We soon learn that Dougie’s life is far from what it seems; and that the family edifice of wealth is built on fragile foundations. Mirabelle’s investigations soon take her back to Goodwood, and onto Fleet Street, where we re-encounter Dougie’s best friend George Higham, who we had seen earlier in the novel searching Dougie’s flat. The reader quickly learns that George is also, not what he seems.

The 1950’s setting, along with the locations are very well delineated. Mention must also be made of the characterisation of Mirabelle and Vesta, who well and truly pass the Bechdel Test; being independent women running their own business. The debt collecting duo are very engaging as characters. They are well-rounded individuals, who each have their own interesting backstory, some of which was explored in this novel.

The narrative structure is at first glance enjoyable and undemanding. However, these novels by Sara Sheridan are far more subversive than they appear, and Operation Goodwood is no exception. Beneath the surface, the novel explores the themes of corruption, sexuality, attitudes to race and colonialism, with a relatively light, but very thought-provoking touch. I was shocked by the casual racism in the novel, which Vesta is exposed to, and also relating to the black servant brought over from Kenya.  All the violence is conducted behind the scenes, which makes it more unsettling than if it were depicted overtly, for our imaginations can chill more than exposition. 

This work is recommended as an enjoyable glimpse into our recent past, and one that gently reminds us that the 1950s were not always sepia as a memory, for there was also darkness.


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