Classed as A Heloise Chancey Mystery, A Necessary Murder being the 2nd in the series, is set in Stoke Newington in London during the mid 1800s. Heloise is a courtesan living in a well-established house, with her mother Amah acting as her personal house maid. Ahmad has an Indonesian background and a secret past which slowly comes to light through the book.
Heloise often assists a private investigator so we expect her to do the sleuthing for several unexpected murders of people she knows. Each death is rather grisly, but with every clue Heloise becomes more involved. Not only is one of the murders on her back door step, but the weapon used comes from an eastern collection is her house.
I found this book rather disjointed at the beginning. And I am not so sure I was happy with format of the first person telling me how they feel and what is happening. M J Tjia, the author, tells the story between the two main characters, Amah and Heloise. I found this rather disorienting. Following two stories at once I don’t usually find difficult, but these two stories were somewhat alien, although it was hinted that there was a connection.
From the death of a little girl in the Prologue, right through to the end where the murderer is finally revealed and apprehended, I wasn’t as convinced that our lady detective was as clever as she was made out to be. Yes she solved the crime, and she was in the thick of it, but a couple of time with both Amah and Heloise I thought “why are you doing this?” Although they carried a weapon, Amah a knife and Heloise a gun, I didn’t share their confidence that they would come through unscathed.
But for all that, the story told is interesting, and as the reason behind the murders stem from Makassar, in Indonesia, there was historical information about riots there in the early 1800s when Amah lived there.
I am a great fan of murder mysteries, and there is no doubt there are murders galore in this book. The descriptions of places and clothing worn were delightful and as the story progressed it got more interesting, but to me there was something lacking. I kept feeling a disjointedness of characters and the reason they were in the story. The whole story didn’t really flow.
But that doesn’t mean others wouldn’t enjoy A Necessary Murder. If you have read the first book of Heloise Chancey ‘She Be Damned’ I am sure you will find this sequel of interest.
Miranda Riwoe, the alter ego of M J Tjia, lives in Brisbane, has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies and has been short listed for several Fellowship and Writer’s awards. So definitely is an outstanding Australian author.
A Necessary Murder is not my cup of tea, but then other will probably find it intriguing.
Title: A Necessary Murder
Author: M J Tjia
Publisher: Pantera Press