cover image Miss Aldridge Regrets

Miss Aldridge Regrets

Louise Hare. Berkley, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-43925-8

British writer Hare makes her U.S. debut with an uneven Christie-esque mystery that unfolds during a transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary in the summer of 1936. Lena Aldridge, a 26-year-old mixed-race London nightclub singer, is on her way to New York City, where she’s been offered a role in a new Broadway show. She’s ready for a fresh start. Her father, an African American piano player, recently died, leaving her with no family, plus her old boss was poisoned to death. While passing as Italian on board, Lena meets a wealthy white family from New York. Her traveling companion, Charlie Bacon, assistant to the Broadway producer, encourages her to charm them so they’ll invest in the show. These are well-drawn characters: there’s the elderly, ailing head of the family, Francis Parker; his aloof daughter, Eliza Abernathy; and her womanizing, alcoholic husband, Jack. Then Francis is poisoned just like Tommy, Jack is found stabbed to death, and Lena realizes she’s being set up: “I felt as though I were trapped inside my own detective novel,” she observes. Lena’s amateur sleuthing and romantic interludes with the ship’s handsome band leader are engaging, though the ending comes out of nowhere and Lena’s final actions feel out of character. Despite the nice buildup, the payoff ends up being a bit disappointing. Agent: Nelle Andrew, Rachel Mills Literary. (July)