There’s a new historical mystery out today, set on a ship in summer 1936: Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare. If you’re looking for dubiously linked murders, a calculated setup, a bit of music, and an examination of race, this is the book for you.
Special thanks to the publicists at Penguin Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!
It’s summer 1936. Lena Aldridge gets the break of a lifetime when Charlie Bacon shows up, offering her a leading role on Broadway. She’ll have to leave London on short notice, and matters are complicated when her boss – her best friend’s husband – is murdered during her last night performing at his club. But Lena boards the ship to New York, ready for a fresh start. On her first day aboard, Charlie introduces her to the Abernathys, a wealthy American family who could help with Lena’s rising star. But things go bad again when the grandfather of the group is murdered… in the same way as Lena’s former boss. As the ship makes its way across the Atlantic, Lena realizes that someone may be setting her up for murder… or she may be the next victim.
Miss Aldridge Regrets is instantly enthralling, opening with murder and then showing our protagonist, Lena Aldridge, throwing away incriminating evidence on her first day aboard the Queen Mary. It seems that she knows something… yet she doesn’t seem like a killer. In fact, she’s a mostly likable character, if rather morally gray.
Early on, Lena meets numerous other characters, most of them part of the Abernathy family. There’s the elderly patriarch, Francis Parker, his daughter Eliza and her husband Jack Abernathy, and their children, Frankie and Carrie. They’re accompanied by Mr. Parker’s nurse Daisy and his personal doctor, Dr. Wilding. Lena is also getting to know Charlie Bacon. Meanwhile, she’s recalling everyone she left behind – her late father Alfie, her best friend Maggie, the murdered husband Tommy, and more. It’s a lot to take in at first, but the characters are distinct and well-developed, making it easy to quickly get to know them.
The novel also has a non-linear timeline. Most of it is told from Lena’s point of view while aboard the Queen Mary, but some chapters look at the week before, when Tommy was murdered. There are also brief interjections from the point of view of the real killer… though figuring out who that is will certainly leave you in tangles!
The characterization in Miss Aldridge Regrets is wonderful. Each character is so vivid that I could easily envision each one. Lena in particular is a fun and engaging protagonist. She’s likable – opinionated, intelligent, thoughtful – yet also troubled. She uses substances to excess, has had relationships with the wrong people, keeps secrets, protects herself above all others. For all her faults, though, she felt human and real. I especially liked how close she was with her dad, Alfie, and her friend, Maggie.
Indeed, Miss Aldridge Regrets is multilayered, also weaving in deeper themes of racism and addiction. Lena is biracial, the daughter of a black man and the white mother she never knew. She’s light enough that she can pass as white, but she also acknowledges how difficult it is to straddle both worlds and to feel that she constantly has to choose between black and white. Lena finds herself part of a few uncomfortable conversations, with some espousing racist and antisemitic views. The book does take place during the rise of Hitler and Nazism, and some discussion of that comes up.
Other thorny themes also arise over the course of Miss Aldridge Regrets: Prostitution, cheating, excessive drinking and smoking, drug use, family issues, and, of course, murder. And true to the title, Lena Aldridge does have a lot of regrets – things she turned a blind eye to, secrets she kept, lies she told. She is certainly the victim of something on this ship, but she’s not entirely innocent, either. As she starts to realize the danger she’s in, Lena does consider the mistakes she’s made. But does she deserve this? Is she really that bad?
Throughout the novel, I kept puzzling over the different murders and how they could possibly be connected. Moreover, why was Lena the target being set up for their murders? I suspected nearly everyone at some point, but I never did get the whole picture until the final reveal. There are certainly some surprises, and I doubt most readers will unravel the entire mess!
Nearly the entire book is set on the Queen Mary over the five days it takes to get across the Atlantic. The ship setting is well done and adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the novel. I also loved the element of music here: Lena is a singer, her dad played piano, and she has a tentative relationship with the pianist of the ship’s band. This added to the mesmerizing quality of the novel.
Miss Aldridge Regrets is a captivating and hazy novel, full of morally gray characters and cold-hearted misdeeds, all aboard an opulent ship. It’s an engaging historical mystery that weaves in racism, sexism, and the intersection of different classes. This is a perfect summertime read.
Although this was my first time reading Louise Hare, it will not be my last. I already have her first book, This Lovely City, and will be reading that very soon! I’ll also eagerly await whatever book comes next.
Get the Book
You can buy Miss Aldridge Regrets here – it’s available now as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Please note that the above link is an Amazon affiliate link and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare|
|Series||Canary Club Mystery (#1)|
|Genre||Mystery; Historical Mystery; Historical Fiction|
|Setting||Atlantic Ocean; England|
|Number of Pages||368|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||July 5, 2022|
The glittering RMS Queen Mary. A nightclub singer on the run. An aristocratic family with secrets worth killing for.
London, 1936. Lena Aldridge wonders if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho, and her married lover has just left her. But Lena has always had a complicated life, one shrouded in mystery as a mixed-race girl passing for white in a city unforgiving of her true racial heritage.
She’s feeling utterly hopeless until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better, and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. But death follows her onboard when an obscenely wealthy family draws her into their fold just as one among them is killed in a chillingly familiar way. As Lena navigates the Abernathy’s increasingly bizarre family dynamic, she realizes that her greatest performance won’t be for an audience, but for her life.
With seductive glamor, simmering family drama, and dizzying twists, Louise Hare makes her beguiling US debut.