Friday, 6 July 2018

Book review : A Necessary Murder - M.J. Tjia

Last year, I reviewed M. J. Tjia's She Be Damned (click through for my review), the first in the Heloise Chancey Mystery series, featuring a completely unique and memorable heroine who I described as a cross between Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes with a touch of Moulin Rouge thrown in for good measure ! The series takes place in Victorian London and the atmospheric descriptions portray both the cossetted lifestyle of the city's wealthy inhabitants, as well as the foul-smelling, dangerous streets that the poor call home.

In this second novel, A Necessary Murder, Heloise once again finds herself caught up in the investigation surrounding a series of horrific murders. First, an innocent little girl is found with her throat cut, then a group of men - men that Heloise is personally acquainted with - start being picked off one by one. With one man being almost decapitated on her doorstep and a vicious Oriental dagger, stolen from her house, quite possibly being used as the murder weapon, it is very surprising that Heloise does not become a suspect herself. She is soon brought in by the police to try to get to the bottom of the killing spree, going undercover as a nursemaid to glean information that only a woman in her position would be able to access. 

I love the evocative descriptions of the scenery, giving a real sense of what London was like at the time, particularly its seedy underbelly, filled with giant rats and stinking cesspools. Heloise is a great character, completely irreverent and refusing to be constrained by the shackles of sexism, even if she does enjoy wearing corsets and being wooed by her many rich suitors. Her Chinese maid, who we learnt in the last book is also her mother, is another complex and interesting character, especially as she suffers the double discrimination of both her sex and race. I would like to see Amah, as well as the new characters brought in from her past, being further developed in the remainder of the series, as they have great potential.

On the other hand, the male characters in the book all seemed very bland and one-dimensional to me. I found it hard to distinguish between them, which made it confusing when they were being targetted by the murderer.

Despite the grisly deaths, there are few gory scenes, so if you like crime fiction that is not too violent, this is a nice easy read.

star rating : 4/5
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (2 July 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1787198790
  • ISBN-13: 978-1787198791

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


  1. Sounds like a smashing read!

  2. I had to smile at Heloise being compared to Miss Marple with a touch of Moulin Rouge. :) And totally agree re: insipid male characters. I also found them one-dimensional and forgettable. Amah was the true heroine of this book. I'm looking forward to reading more of Heloise's adventures.

  3. This book really has some action, must read it!


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