Monday, April 13, 2020

Book Review: 'Betrayal at Ravenswick: A Fiona Figg Mystery' by Kelly Oliver

Betrayal at Ravenswick by Kelly Oliver

‘A photographic memory came in handy when filing while eavesdropping’

Tennessee author Kelly Oliver earned her degrees from Gonzaga University and Northwestern University and is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She has published numerous articles on such important issues as the refugee crisis, reproductive technologies, campus rape, women and the media, the environment, and animals in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as being featured on ABC news, CSPAN books, and the Canadian Broadcasting Network. Her published books include both non-fiction and children’s, young adult, and adult fiction. Now she opens a new series – the Fiona Figg mysteries and BETRAYAL AT RAVENSWICK is Book 1. She lives in Nashville.

The decision to place this new mystery series in the World War I era finds Kelly in top form as a writer of both romantic mystery and wit, able to focus her stage setting so clearly that we the view war torn world in a different light. Once again the primary character is a female sleuth, Fiona Figg, and her personality and motivation for this story is evident from the opening words: ‘I should have poisoned him. If only I’d had the chance. By the time he confessed to loving another woman and asked for a divorce, it was too late. When he left me, he took my desires to be with him, even in my desire for death. If it weren’t for an article in the Daily Times about a certain South African war correspondent living near Wickham Bishops, I might still be languishing in my bed, wishing I’d never been born. I’d been such an idiot…’ 

Kelly’s writing style is a fine blend of raw humor with tense tale spinning that makes this mystery series opener a complete pleasure to read: laugh a lot at her language choices and similes while deeply inhaling her well-paced mystery. She provides a very succinct and useful summary invitation into her world – ‘What's the best way to purge an unfaithful husband? Become a spy for British Intelligence, of course. Desperate to get out of London, and determined to help the war effort and stop thinking about her philandering husband, Fiona Figg volunteers to go undercover. At Ravenswick Abbey a charming South African war correspondent has tongues wagging. His friends say he's a crack huntsman. The War Office is convinced he's a traitor. Fiona thinks he's a pompous prig. What sort of name is Fredrick Fredricks anyway? Too bad Fiona doesn't own a Wolseley pith helmet. ‘

Kelly Oliver continues to grow as one of our more important authors today. Welcoming a new series form her allows us to further appreciate her fine-honed skills at writing novels that enhance our reading pleasures and entertainment. Very highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.