death in focus


A disappointing new historical fiction mystery series set in the years before WWII. 

Sigh. Let me start by saying that I’ve truly enjoyed reading several of the author’s books in the Monk and Pitt series. So, when I was given the chance to read the first book in a new series, I jumped at the chance. Sadly, this book did not compare to the other book series I’ve read. Overall the story itself was interesting, but the book was so uneven I couldn’t get into it.

The book is set in the early 1930’s during the time in which Hitler built his power. The main character, Elena Standish, is a young woman that used to work for the Foreign Service Office but was ousted because she was involved in some sort of scandal. This topic is referenced in passing, but the author never goes into great detail about what exactly happened. Elena is now trying to work as a free-lance photographer while she recovers from the demise of her public service career. While vacationing in Italy she falls for a young man and decides to travel with him to Paris on her way home to England. A murder occurs on the train, forcing Elena to travel to Berlin to personally deliver a message that could have repercussions across Europe.

Elena acts inconsistently throughout the book and it irritated me. At times she’s a young, heart-broken girl trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, and the next she’s a skilled former foreign service agent trying to thwart an international conspiracy. Having the character bounce back and forth between these two personas was annoying.

While I enjoy historical fiction books, this one was pretty far-fetched and heavy handed. Large sections of the book felt like reading a history book rather than the author subtly weaving historical figures and events into the story line. When this happened, the momentum of the book stalled. I think better editing could have helped with this problem.

I like this author and will continue to read her other book series, but I’m not sure I would read another book in this particular book series.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.