When something seems too good to be true, it probably is. In her U.S. debut, Miss Aldridge Regrets, British author Louise Hare illustrates that idea with deliciously suspenseful, Agatha Christie-esque results.
The year is 1936, the place is Soho, London, and the star of the show is 26-year-old Lena Aldridge. She has a regular gig at the Canary Club, owned by sleazy criminal Tommy Scarsdale. When she’s not singing, she goes on dates with her married lover and tries not to think about how much she misses her late father, Alfie.
Every day, Lena wonders: Will her big break ever come? The future’s looking bleak, but then a stranger named Charles Bacon appears with an astonishing proposal. His employer, an old friend of Alfie’s, is offering Lena a role in his Broadway play, and he’ll pay for first-class passage to New York City aboard RMS Queen Mary. Lena is thrilled and trepidatious, but then her boyfriend dumps her. And then Tommy’s murdered. After deciding that fate is urging her to exit stage right, Lena sets sail.
Readers will be enchanted by the period charm of Hare’s ocean liner setting and will swoon as Lena gets to know Will, a Black musician. Will notices right away that Lena is also Black, even though she’s been successfully passing as white for years. Lena knows that being Black will be even more of an issue in America than it was in England, a big change she’s not sure she’s ready for.
She’s also not ready for what happens on the Queen Mary: Someone murders one of the Abernathys, a wealthy family that Charles insisted Lena spend time schmoozing. As the ship glides across the Atlantic, its posh sheen gradually dulls in the wake of destructive secrets and even more murders. Everyone’s a suspect, and the red herrings pile up as an alarmed Lena thinks, “I felt as though I were trapped inside my own detective novel.” Readers will enjoy playing sleuth, racing to figure out who did it, how and why, even as they ponder the ultimate question: Will Lena survive the trip to New York unscathed?