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The story takes place in London in 1863. It begins with a very graphic scene of a woman being "scraped" and mutilated. Prostitutes around the Waterloo area turn up dead, with their sexual organs removed.
Heloise Chancey, a professional courtesan and detective, has been approached by the police to help find one of the missing girls from the good family who ran away and ended up in the dangerous area. Heloise has to find her before she becomes the next victim.
She leaves her house in the prosperous area of London to find a temporary place where to live and start her investigation, and visits her old haunts. She started as one of those unfortunates she encounters during her search for Eleanor.
The police is as usually totally useless. It is up to Heloise to find Eleanor and get the killer.
She is getting closer and closer to finding the truth, with the assistance of her half-Chinese maid Amah Li Leen. And then Amah is accused of brutal murders...
Can Heloise trust her? Will she be able to acquit and save her?
Heloise is a plucky girl, resolute and determined.
She is also portrayed as a flawed character. For all her talents, she chooses to live a life of a courtesan and depend on men's whims. She might pretend to the others that she is content with her choices, but it is clear that she has a greater potential than just simply being a man's plaything.
When Heloise has a conversation with Dr Blain, he talks of courtesans as "nothing more than leeches with no morals who are in search of riches..." He is not entirely wrong there. The low level prostitutes have no other choice, they are desperate and destitute, prostitution is the only job they can do to survive.
Heloise has brains and could use them accordingly, if she chose to.
MK Tija portrays a believable historic scene - the world of the Victorian London comes alive in this book. It is dark and gruesome, and haunting.
As a woman who sells herself to the highest bidder, Heloise has compassion and sympathy to the lowest of her sisters.
I'd love to see her abandon her rich men to their own devices and start her own detective agency, though that might have been impossible in Victorian England.
If you love your mysteries cozy, where violence and sex are downplayed, perhaps move away - there is plenty of graphic detail here.
This novel reads as the first in the series. Some of the storylines - mostly of Heloise's background - are left untold. I can only presume there will be a sequel, where we will find out more about how exactly Heloise managed to raise up in the society from the very bottom, and also why she got there in the first place, knowing who her mother is (and I'd like to know something about who her father was).
There are references to the previous sleuthing jobs Heloise did as the private detective, but not much is disclosed.
Too many questions were left unanswered for me.
Historical mystery is one of my favourite genres, and I am always looking forward to discovering new authors and characters. Whisk me back in time!
I received an advanced Kindle copy of the book for the purposes of taking part in blog tour.
Legend Press are proud to be publishing She Be Damned by MJ Tija on 1 August 2017.
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Follow MJ Tija on Twitter - @MJTija