The Mystery Woman…
About the Book:
Rebecca Wood takes the role as postmistress in a sleepy seaside town, desperate for anonymity after a scandal in Sydney. But she is confronted almost at once by a disturbing discovery – her predecessor committed suicide.
To add to her worries, her hopes for a quiet life are soon threatened by the attentions of the dashing local doctor, the unsettling presence of a violent whaling captain and a corrupt shire secretary, as well as the watchful eyes of the town’s gossips. Yet in spite of herself she is drawn to the enigmatic resident of the house on the clifftop, rumoured to have been a Nazi spy.
Against the backdrop of the turbulent sea, Rebecca is soon caught up in the dangerous mysteries that lie behind Shipwreck Bay’s respectable net curtains.
The Mystery Woman is a stunning new direction for Belinda Alexandra, and one she has navigated with precision. Known more for historical/romantic saga style novels set during WWII or earlier, The Mystery Woman is more contemporary in its history, set in the 1950s, and is firmly gothic noir in style, of which I highly approve!
Rebecca is a heroine with a few wrinkles in her past and she’s moved to Shipwreck Bay with a heavy secret. I liked Rebecca from the get-go and I was drawn into her challenges of fitting in; the small-town fishbowl aspect of community living was replicated so convincingly. How awful, for women to be under such close scrutiny, and to have to sit in church each Sunday, whether you wanted to or not, and listen to a priest wax lyrical about the evils of women since the dawn of time. The gossip and innuendo; the appraisal and judgement; the toxic interfering. The author painted a stiflingly precise picture of small town living in the 1950s, where men ruled the town and home and women’s aspirations were not supposed to extend beyond pleasing their husbands.
There are few mysteries woven into this story, intersecting at different points. The atmosphere is at times chilling, tense, and as the novel careened towards its conclusion, it spiralled into something quite horrific – much to my admiration. I do really love a chilling gothic tale. Themes of domestic violence and the abuse of power and male privilege are explored thoroughly within some thought-provoking contexts. The whaling sub-plot linked to the setting was also highly interesting. I have read quite extensively on whaling history in Australia and I felt that the author wove this topic neatly into her narrative without overwhelming the reader with too much history; nicely balanced.
All in all, this is one novel I can highly recommend. It was engaging and gripping right the way through with a varied cast of characters and a sophisticated storyline, all infused with a crackling atmosphere of mystery and dread.
Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Australia for providing me with a copy of The Mystery Woman for review.
About the Author:
Belinda Alexandra has been published to wide acclaim in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland, Poland, Norway, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Hungary and the United States. She is the daughter of a Russian mother and an Australian father and has been an intrepid traveller since her youth. Her love of other cultures is matched by her passion for her home country, Australia, where she is a volunteer rescuer and carer for the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES). An animal lover, Belinda is also the patron of the World League for the Protection of Animals (Australia).
Find out more at:
The Mystery Woman
Published by HarperCollins – AU
Released 2nd September 2020