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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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