1951. Brighton. With the excitement of the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (a retired Whitehall secretary) thinks her skills are no longer required. After the death of her lover she moves to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when confronted by the case of Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee, Mirabelle discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from the pretty insurance clerk down the corridor, Vesta Churchill, Mirabelle follows a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns, betting scams and corpses to a dark corner of Austerity Britain where the forces of evil remain alive and well.
1952, Brighton and London. When 17 year old debutante Rose Bellamy Gore goes missing in a seedy Soho jazz club the prime suspect is black saxophone player, Lindon Claremont, the last person to be seen talking to her. Under suspicion, Lindon heads straight for Brighton and his childhood friend, Vesta Churchill who works with ex-Whitehall secretary Mirabelle Bevan, now in charge of McGuigan & McGuigan Debt Recovery. When Lindon is taken into custody the two women dive into London’s underworld of smoky night clubs, smart cars and lethal cocktails to establish the truth.
Set during the summer heatwave of 1953, England Expects finds Mirabelle and her sidekick Vesta investigating the seemingly unrelated murders of a racing journalist and a cleaning woman. Their searches lead them through Brighton Pavilion’s crumbling passageways to the quad of a Cambridge college and finally into the shady underworld of Brighton freemasonry. And, while not on the murder trail, Vesta has to make some difficult decisions about her personal life.
British Bulldog is the fourth instalment in Sara Sheridan’s best-selling 1950s murder mystery series featuring stylish sleuth Mirabelle Bevan. Following a mystery bequest, Mirabelle sets out on the trail of an RAF pilot who went missing during World War II. It is 1954 and her search takes her to Paris, where she finds herself digging into the activities of Resistance fighters and ex-Nazis, whose lives are defined by the political climate of Cold War Europe. The bequest raises issues closer to home than she expects and as the story unravels Mirabelle is forced to confront the truth about her wartime lover Jack and the true nature of their relationship.
1955. Brighton. When Mirabelle Bevan is rescued from a fire at her home on the seafront she’s lucky to escape unharmed – but the blaze takes the life of her neighbour, Dougie Beaumont, a dashing and successful racing driver. It soon becomes clear that this was arson, raising questions about the young man’s death that Mirabelle can’t resist. She finds herself taking on the mysterious world of Fleet Street with its long lunches and dodgy deals as well as the glamorous motor racing world at Goodwood.
It gradually becomes clear that Dougie Beaumont’s life was not as above-board as it first seemed. He hid a myriad of secrets under the veneer of an international lifestyle. When a second shocking murder takes place, Mirabelle’s pursuit is frustrated first by Dougie’s well-connected family and then by her would-be lover Superintendent McGregor. With the help of her colleague at McGuigan & McGuigan Debt Recovery, Vesta, and some of her ex-intelligence service connections, Mirabelle discovers the dark secrets of the glamorous racing driver have ramifications far beyond the English coastline.
When Mirabelle’s on-off boyfriend, Superintendent Alan McGregor, is taken off a gruesome murder case because the key suspect is an old school friend, Mirabelle steps in to unravel the tangle of poisoned gin, call girls and high stakes gambling that surrounds the death. It isn’t long before McGregor’s integrity is called into question and Mirabelle finds herself doubting him. So when a wartime hero’s body turns up on the Sussex Downs, she is glad that McGregor is caught up in a mystery of his own as Brighton’s establishment closes ranks.
Mirabelle is in a dangerous situation though and she doesn’t have McGregor watching her back on this one. And when the dead man on the Downs turns out to have been a member of a deadly thrillseekers club, related to the earlier murder, Mirabelle is determined to uncover the truth and free the innocent people who are bearing the brunt of the cover up. As her relationship with McGregor reaches breaking point, she has to draw on all her wartime experience to stand up for what she believes in – even if it means their relationship may not survive.
Mirabelle Bevan can’t resist a cry for help, be it the little girl at a seaside sanatorium who is getting bullied or the strange behavious of Uma, the Indian nurse who is looking after her. Intrigued she soon finds herself drawn into a spider’s web of connections between an upmarket brothel, local priest Father Grogan, a man’s body washed up on Brighton beach and a missing nursing sister.
Attracted to handsome police doctor, Chris Williams, Mirabelle is determined to finally put her love affair with Jack Duggan behind her, and recover from the betrayal of Superintendent Alan McGregor, but the police force in Brighton is undergoing a sea change that keeps leading her back to the sanatorium at the epicentre of a spate of brutal killings. And very soon it becomes apparent Mirabelle is in much more danger than she realises.
“With sharp blows delivered for gender and racial equality, Sheridan’s story builds to a chilling climax’ Daily Mail
Scottish Highlands, 1958
Britain is awash in Cold War anxiety as Mirabelle Bevan heads for the Highlands on a holiday to visit Superintendent Alan McGregor’s family. More glamorous than she expected, the Robertsons welcome her with open arms and an array of cocktails, but she has scarcely arrived when the body of an American fashion buyer turns up brutally murdered, plunging the local village into disarray and sending shockwaves around the close, Highland community.
Mirabelle can’t resist investigating, but what she finds lays the limitations of her feelings for McGregor bare and calls into question the loyalties of all those around her from the Robertson’s housekeeper Mrs Gillies to the family of the dead woman. What started as a relaxing break in scenic surroundings soon spirals into a week fraught with danger. As the press descend on the Robertson’s Highland estate, it rapidly becomes clear that things are not as black and white as they first appeared and Mirabelle can’t count on anyone . . .
Sara on the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries
I knew very little about the 1950s when I set out to write a short story as a present for my father’s birthday. Now, only a few years later, I have spent thousands of hours in newspaper archives, photographic libraries and sitting in front of a big screen watching original Pathe newsreels. I find myself drawn like a magnet to the post-WW2 generation. They were tough – they certainly put me to shame. And oh, the women who kept the home fires burning are an inspiration. I search for traces of them in vintage shops across the world. As a teenager, I devoured Agatha Christie’s work (particularly Miss Marple) and as I researched, I realised that the 1950s were, if nothing else, an era of silence and of secrets. I quickly realised I wanted to write traditional murder mysteries but, as Agatha Christie did herself, make them dark and shocking to the reader. The material I turned to was authentic and of the 1950s (the past, even within a generation, is indeed another country) – the racism and sexism of post-war Britain. When Mirabelle Bevan strolled onto the page I didn’t think she’d run to 11 novels but that’s where I’m heading now as my slightly cold, bereaved sleuth solves mystery after mystery on her way to getting over the war. The books run to one a year from 1951 – 1961 and occasionally I release short stories set between the main novels. At the moment the books are being adapted for television and that’s fun to be part of, as a writer.