A Traitor in Whitehall by Julia Kelly
Historical Fiction / Mystery
From Winston Churchill’s underground bunker comes a brand new amateur detective — in the form of one of his tenacious secretaries, Evelyne Redfern.
At the beginning of WWII, Winston Churchill moved his command center to a group of basement offices in Whitehall, known as the Cabinet War Rooms. The rooms were used around the clock by the cabinet and hundreds of civil servants in an effort to end the war. It’s here that Julia Kelly sets her newest novel — a delightful collision of historical fiction and classic mystery, set amidst a backdrop of spies, underground bunkers, and secret war work with high-stakes ramifications.
A Traitor in Whitehall has all the elements of a classic, locked-room murder mystery. (Security is tight in Winston Churchill’s underground bunkers after all! Or is it…?) Well researched, this novel is an engaging and entertaining read for fans of books like Mr. Churchill’s Secretary or the Maisie Dobbs series.
Evelyne Redfern is an exciting new addition to the world of amateur sleuths. Tenacious and brave, she has great intuition and is also a skilled interrogator – getting almost anyone to open up to her. The motivation for her to investigate (and continue investigating) the murder was also really strong given her personal backstory, the reason she was hired as a typist, and her love for detective fiction. All of this made for a really fun read with a plausible, intricately crafted storyline.
During her investigation, Evelyne begrudgingly teams up with David Poole (who has been tasked with uncovering a mole leaking vital secrets to Germany.) This was a really entertaining pairing with an energetic dynamic and witty, lighthearted banter. It’s the sort of start to a series that leaves you excited for book two, because you can’t wait to see what’s going to develop between this duo in the future.
While the final reveal felt a little complicated and took me a bit to figure out who was doing what and why, the pieces of the mystery all fit together nicely. There were some excellent red-herrings, along with a whole host of suspects. As the first book in a brand new series, Julia Kelly is off to a tremendous start with her first mystery novel. I cannot wait to follow along with all of Evelyne Redfern’s future adventures.
Fans of historical mysteries with a strong female, amateur detective
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Advance e-copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
Evelyne Redfern’s family specializes in notoriety. Her father is Sir Reginald Redfern, a feckless, louche second son of an English baron, and her late beloved mother was a glamorous French party girl. Their disastrous marriage ended in divorce and a very public custody battle over nine-year-old Evelyne that only resolved when Genevieve died three years later. However, the damage was done, with the press dubbing Evelyne “The Parisian Orphan” and making her the most notorious child in the world.
Years later in 1940, Evelyne is estranged from her father and working on the line at a munitions factory in wartime London. She’s bored and craving more from her life, but the only contentment she can find is with stacks of mystery novels that fight for space with her roommate Moira’s ever-expanding wardrobe.
When Mr. Fletcher, one of her father’s old friends, spots Evelyne at a night out at the Ritz, Evelyne seizes the chance for a change and finds herself plunged into the world of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s cabinet war rooms. However, shortly after she settles into her new role as a secretary, one of the girls at the war rooms is murdered and Evelyne must use all of her amateur sleuthing expertise earned from years of reading mysteries to find the killer. Little does she know that doing so will put her right in the path of David Poole, a cagey minister’s aide who seems determined to thwart her investigations. That is, until Evelyne finds out David’s real reason for being in the cabinet war rooms is to root out a mole selling government secrets to Britain’s enemies, and the pair begrudgingly team up.
With her quick wit, sharp eyes, and determination, Evelyne is a heroine to root for. But can she find out who’s been selling England’s secrets and catch a killer all while battling her growing attraction to David and her own scandalous past?