Thursday, January 7, 2021

Betrayal at Ravenswick: A Fiona Figg mystery by Kelly Oliver

Title: Betrayal at Ravenswick
Author: Kelly Oliver
Publication: Historia, 2020, Trade Paper
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: England, 2017
What’s the best way to purge an unfaithful husband?

Become a spy for British Intelligence, of course.
Desperate to get out of London and determined to help the war effort, Fiona Figg volunteers to go undercover.

It keeps her from thinking about Andrew, her philandering ex-husband.

At Ravenswick Abbey a charming South African war correspondent has tongues wagging.

His friends say he’s a crack huntsman. The War Office is convinced he’s a traitor. Fiona thinks he’s a pompous prig.

What sort of name is Fredrick Fredricks anyway?

Too bad Fiona doesn’t own a Wolseley pith helmet. At Ravenswick a murderer is on the prowl, and it’s not just the big-game hunter who’s ready to pounce.
In the second book, High Treason at the Grand Hotel (2021), Fiona is sent to Paris by the War Office to follow the notorious Black Panther, and soon after arrival is caught with the body of a dead countess. I did not get to this one but it sounds like Fiona continues to don eccentric disguises to mask her amateur espionage, resulting in awkward moments but eventual triumph.

About the Author: When she’s not writing mysteries, Kelly Oliver is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.A. from Gonzaga University and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media, film noir, and Alfred Hitchcock. Her work has been translated into seven languages.  Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
My Impression: This is a lighthearted mystery series intended for the same audience that enjoys books by Catriona McPherson and Frances Brody, and Fiona Figg is indeed a zany individual, known for eccentric disguises and a determination to get her own way. The covers are attractive and the concept is appealing – a smart woman who has been betrayed by her husband regains self-confidence and a belief in her own abilities once she persuades the ruling male class to let her serve her country through espionage. However, the character of Fiona does not always deliver. She is relentlessly bitter, which limits her appeal, and does not make a convincing (or entertaining) spy. It also seems likely that a divorcee in the early 20th century, however blameless, would be shunned by exactly the people she needs to employ her and provide assignments. It is also harder to write historical fiction than Oliver realizes, as her use of “clueless” on page 1 set the wrong tone for this reader. It also does not take much effort to research titles and use them correctly.  Having worked in publishing, I always suggest to writers of historical fiction that they get a second reader who knows the history and/or genre well and can point out anachronisms and related issues. I worry that the success of Bridgerton may indicate to some authors that historical accuracy doesn’t matter but my concern is that something that distracts from the storytelling impairs the reading experience.

Links: Barnes & Noble * Amazon * IndieBound
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. Please visit other stops on the tour by clicking below:

January 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

January 8th: Stranded in Chaos

January 12th: Amy’s Book-et List

January 18th: Books and Bindings

January 19th: Stacy’s Books

January 20th: Tamsterdam Reads

January 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

January 25th: Write – Read – Life

January 26th: Gwendalyn’s Books

January 28th: bookchickdi

January 29th: A Bookish Affair

February 1st: Lit and Life


Lark said...

Ooh...I like the look of this one! I wonder if my library has a copy.

Sara Strand said...

Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours