Book Review: The Jazz Files

18 Mar

51a67zXF2nL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Introducing Poppy Denby, a young journalist in London during the Roaring Twenties, investigating crime in the highest social circles.

It is 1920. Twenty-two year old Poppy Denby moves from Northumberland to live with her paraplegic aunt in London. Aunt Dot, a suffragette who was injured in battles with the police in 1910, is a feisty and well-connected lady.

Poppy has always dreamed of being a journalist, and quickly lands a position as an editorial assistant at the Daily Globe. Then one of the paper’s hacks, Bert Isaacs, dies suddenly and messily. Poppy and photographer Daniel Rokeby (with whom Poppy has an immediate and mutual attraction) begin to wonder if Bert was pushed. His story was going to be the morning lead, but he hasn’t finished writing it. Poppy finds his notes and completes the story, which is a sensation.

The Globe’s editor, realising her valuable suffragette contacts, invites her to dig deeper. Poppy starts sifting through the dead man’s files and unearths a major mystery which takes her to France — and abruptly into danger.

Fiona-treeFormerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer of books, theatre plays and screenplays.

Her children’s picturebooks, the Young David series, are now published by SPCK Publishing. Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, is available from September 2015.

She is a member of the British Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers. Fiona is also the editor of the popular writing advice website The Crafty Writer and her courses attract students from around the world.

She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities.


My Impressions:

Set in London during the 1920s, The Jazz Files is sure to appeal to fans of the classic era of mystery fiction. Poppy Denby, newly arrived in the city, yearns to become an independent woman. Her natural nosiness and her quest for truth leads her to a job at a newspaper. Her job straightening out the files of the editor soon leads her to a decade old case that becomes very personal. This British whodunit with all the flavor of the Jazz Age will have you guessing along with Poppy as she investigates from London to Paris and back again.

Setting sets the tone of The Jazz Files. The Great War is over — women are more independent, the night life is filled with music, and the old is shaken off. Careful attention to detail, including fashion, entertainment, and the politics of the day, brings London of 1920 to life. Smith takes a few liberties with the timeline (as explained in her Historical Notes) but readers will be quick to overlook those as they become immersed in the twisting mystery Poppy investigates. Poppy is a character to love. A determined young woman, she brings a freshness to the cynical news business. A Christian, she is often confronted with ethical dilemmas in her quest for the truth. Her struggle with means and ends is very realistic and relevant for today. Her questions and doubts about the workings of God are very natural. Supporting characters are equally interesting and do not fall into the stereotypes so common in the mystery genre.

The Jazz Files is a quick and entertaining read, and I am hopeful that Poppy will return soon with more investigations. Please note: The Jazz Files was published in England and contains some language and situations usually not included in American Christian fiction.


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


3 Responses to “Book Review: The Jazz Files”

  1. thepowerofwords2016 March 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    Beckie, is it warm in south Ga and are you covered with pollen like we are here?! I was impressed with this book, learned a lot of history about 1913-1920’s London, and really enjoyed it. Hoping for more Poppy adventures to read.

    • rbclibrary March 18, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

      The rain last night helped wash some of the pollen away, but it’s still a bit yellow out there. Looking at a cooler weekend too. I liked this book too. Poppy is plucky and her struggles are realistic. Book 2 should be another good read. Hope you have a blessed Holy Week!


  1. Author, Author! — Fiona Veitch Smith | By The Book - April 12, 2016

    […] British author whose latest book, The Jazz Files, is an historical mystery. (You can read my review HERE.) There are some differences in how Christian fiction is perceived in Britain and the United […]

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