Julia Kelly has written numerous international bestsellers in the realms of contemporary and historical romance as well as historical fiction (The Last Dance of the Debutante). Now, she’s setting her writerly sights on historical mystery with the new Parisian Orphan series, set in London during the Blitz.
In the meticulously researched, murder-and-intrigue-laden A Traitor in Whitehall, Kelly turns the locked-room trope up a notch by beckoning readers deep underground to the Churchill War Rooms (CWR), a command center established by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It was constructed to be safe from bombs and prying enemy eyes, cloaked in concrete and characterized by tight security measures—but although every employee is extensively vetted, the CWR is not immune to the darkest human impulses.
Evelyne Redfern learns this the hard way in the most horrifying first week at work ever. After a patriotic-yet-unchallenging stint at a munitions factory, she is hired for the CWR typing pool by an old family friend, Mr. Fletcher, who knew Evelyne’s parents, French society page regular Genevieve and louche British adventurer (as well as neglectful parent) Sir Reginal Redfern. Their bitter and highly publicized divorce when Evelyne was a child earned her the media nickname “The Parisian Orphan.”
Now in her 20s, Evelyne has been enjoying the relative anonymity of London but, after months of boredom at her factory job, is ready to make a more meaningful contribution to the war effort. She’s keeping an eye out for anything unusual at the CWR, per Mr. Fletcher’s instructions. Certainly, stumbling across the body of a recently murdered co-worker fits the bill. It’s a shocking yet fortuitous discovery: Since age 16, Evelyne has been a constant reader of mystery novels, and she thinks, “having adjusted to the reality of there being a dead body in my presence, I had been drawn to investigate.”
A minister’s aide named David Poole joins Evelyne’s crime-solving efforts; he’s been on the hunt for a mole, and it’s likely the murder is linked with treason. Kelly emphasizes the duo’s relentless search for the killer via tense, realistic interrogations and nerve-wracking cat-and-mouse sequences through underground hallways and the streets of London. A cast of opinionated side characters and a wealth of fascinating historical details add to the fun in this engaging, atmospheric series kickoff.