A Necessary Murder by M J Tjia, Review: Red herrings galore

A Necessary Murder is the second title in M J Tjia’s Heloise Chancey Mystery Series.

A Necessary Murder Synopsis

A Necessary Murder - M J TjiaStoke Newington, 1863: Little Margaret Lovejoy is found brutally murdered in the outhouse of her family’s estate.

A few days later, another victim is found on the doorstep of Eurasian courtesan and professional detective Heloise Chancey at her prestigious address. At the same time, Heloise’s mother, Amah Li Leen, must confront events from her past that threaten her present.

In a maelstrom of murder and deceit, Heloise is caught up in a crime that reaches into the very heart of her existence.

(Pantera Press, 2018)

Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery, Crime-Detective

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I wish I had read the first title in this series, She Be Damned, before this one. Not because A Necessary Murder cannot be enjoyed as a standalone (it can), but because the references made to the previous case Heloise was involved in were so intriguing!

Series lead Heloise Chancey, and her mother Amah Li Leen (posing as her maid) are appealingly strong-willed. They are also strikingly independent women for their time. They are by necessity enigmatic characters (given Heloise’s profession and their ethnicity) currently leading a life of affluence on the fringe of Victorian London society. But this was not always the case and so their situation is precarious and ripe for suspense.

Heloise courts men of power and influence. These men have colourful pasts and associates and, we soon learn, skeletons in their closet.  Skeletons worth murdering for.

Mysterious Victorian London

Tjia’s depiction of Victorian London reads as though in high-definition; the absurd wealth and trifles of high society, the dangers lurking in dimly-lit streets, the stench of the unwashed and cesspools in the slums, and the truly gruesome nature of the murders perpetrated.

Several skeins of mystery are woven into A Necessary Murder’s admirably complex plot, some stronger than others. Some of the red-herrings were very well developed, and so yield genuinely surprising reveals. The relationships Heloise forms during a stint undercover also inject warmth, depth and wit to this ostensibly hard-shelled, driven character, as did her private interactions with her mother.

However, as satisfying as the resolutions to the foreground mysteries in A Necessary Murder are, the overarching mystery of how Heloise and her mother came to be living as they are is yet to be resolved. Heloise and Amah’s fragmented recollections triggered by this criminal investigation are key to this unfolding storyline. I look forward to these glimpses into the past coalescing into a more fullsome backstory for these intriguing leading ladies as this series progresses.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of A Necessary Murder, and other titles in this series from:

Amazon Book Depository Booktopia

Update: Book 3 in this series, The Death of Me, was released early 2020.

This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2018, the 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge and the New Release Challenge 2018.

About the Author, M J Tjia

M.J. Tjia is the author of The Heloise Chancey historical crime series – Book 1 She Be Damned  and Book 2 A Necessary Murder.

Tjia has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies. Her novella The Fish Girl won Seizure’s Viva la Novella, 2017. She has also been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize, Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, Fish Short Story Prize, and the Luke Bitmead Bursary and longlisted for CWA Dagger awards. Her work has appeared in Review of Australian Fiction, Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories. M.J. lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her family, and is the Prose Editor of Peril Magazine.

* Receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.