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The Innocents is the second of the Variety Palace Mysteries, a sequel to The Tumbling Girl. Minnie Ward is still holding the theater company together, particularly since Tansie, the owner/manager, is still reeling from the events in the first book. The budding romance between Minnie and Albert, the private detective, has been shelved by Minnie who doesn’t have the time and who thinks Albert deserves a better partner in his life. She has also sworn off detecting after everything that happened.

But mysteries abound and they have not sworn off Minnie. Minnie and Albert are commissioned to investigate the death of a judge that had been ruled accidental. His widow is certain it must be murder. That investigation leads to uncovering other mysterious deaths and a possible serial killer.

In addition, one of the Variety Palace players’ brother is missing and Minnie asks Albert to investigate. Tansie’s monkey is kidnapped and an impossible ransom demanded. And if that were not enough, Minnie is being menaced to force her to visit the guilty party from the first book.

For me, The Innocents was a more enjoyable mystery than the first book. Some of that is simply that it is far less gruesome. Though the tragedy recounted in the prologue is horrific, the deaths in this book have an internal logic that is not about inflicting pain in pursuit of pleasure. In a way, this murderer is more like Hamlet, killing “more in sorrow than in anger.”

There is a bit of deux ex machina in addressing the extortionate demands of The Tumbling Girl‘s villain, but that is fine with me. The threads from the first book remain hanging and that surprised me. I had expected the immediate sequel to snip them off, but I would be happy if the Hairpin Killer is never heard from again.

The mystery is complex and fair. There is more than one mystery and the book does have a sort of frenetic pace and affect, but I imagine Minnie’s life is frenetic what with writing scripts for the theater, managing the theater, and solving crime. She’s a strong, independent woman just seven years after the Married Woman’s Property Act. If Bridget Walsh wrote this book before 1870, the copyright and all the proceedings would belong to her husband. So a book set in that era, with not one, but several strong and independent women working and supporting themselves in occupations beyond the governess or sex worker stereotypical choices of employment is exciting.

I liked The Innocents a lot. It can be read out without reading the first book, but doesn’t irk readers of the first with presenting too much backstory. The plot moves quickly and there is more showing than telling. The characters are complex, even the villain. Well, at least one of the villains. It’s a surprise and a treat when a sequel is better than the first book in a mystery series. Now, I am expecting great things from her third book.

The Innocents will be released on March 26th (4/11 in UK.) I received an ARC from the publisher.
Bridget Walsh author site plus a gorgeous garden.
My review of The Tumbling Girl
… (mere)
Tonstant.Weader | Mar 2, 2024 |
The Tumbling Girl is the introductory mystery in the Variety Palace Mysteries that center on Minnie Ward, the intrepid glue that holds the somewhat rickety Variety Palace together. She writes songs, skits, organizes acts, keeps the peace among the large cast, all while solving murders. She is the embodiment of the phrase, “if you want something done, ask a busy woman.”

While Albert Easterbrook, the private detective may think he is the Holmes in this story, he’s clearly the Watson. Minnie is the driver. She brings him the mystery, she goes undercover, she is the one who is threatened, who is in jeopardy. I assume in future episodes, the detection will be slightly more balanced as Minnie and Albert are falling in love.

There are two mysteries. Who killed Minnie’s best friend and who is killing women in London and desecrating their bodies? Minnie’s death was ruled a suicide, so there is no reason to connect it to the serial murders. Still, there are uncanny connections.

I liked several things about The Tumbling Girl. The mystery is complex, but fair. There is humor as well as murder and mayhem. I like the irrepressible Minnie and the more restrained Albert. However, I wish Bridget Walsh trusted her readers more. She sort of bludgeons us with the obvious at the end. The last sentence was so unnecessary. We already knew.

I received an ARC of The Tumbling Girl from the publisher.

The Tumbling Girl at Gallic Press | Belgravia
Bridget Walsh on Twitter
… (mere)
Tonstant.Weader | Jul 10, 2023 |



½ 3.7