Book Review: The Death Beat

25 Feb

Poppy looked up, her face pale, her hands shaking. What is it, Poppy? Oh my, Rollo, oh my. I think we’ve just struck gold. Poppy Denby is furious with Rollo, who has gambled away his position at the Daily Globe and is being banished to New York. That is, until she discovers he plans to take her with him to work at the New York Times! Poppy can’t wait to report on the Manhattan arts scene, but her hopes are crushed when she is allocated The Death Beat – writing obituaries. But Poppy has a nose for a story, and when a body is found in a luxury penthouse apartment she starts to investigate. She unravels a sordid trail of illegal immigrants, forced labour, sex scandals, and an unexpected ghost from her past. Poppy is determined to help the victims, but can she find the evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice without putting her own life in danger . . . .


Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smithis 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:

The Death Beat is the third book in the Poppy Denby historical mystery series by Fiona Veitch Smith. Set in 1921, it brings to life the era very well — flappers, speakeasies, etc. And while Poppy hails from England, this newest adventure takes her to New York with her boss Rollo Rolandson. Poppy finds herself assigned to the unenviable job at the New York Times — the obituary writer. But as always, Poppy finds a much more exciting story to uncover.

I loved the references to the 1920s that Smith weaves throughout The Death Beat. The fashion, the night scene, the slang, all make this novel very authentic. And while the author may have taken a few liberties with dates and places, this fictional look at New York in the Roaring Twenties conveys the spirit of the time. America was struggling with immigration even then, and the mystery involves illegal immigrants that were used and abused. Human trafficking may not have bee a buzz word at the time, but it was a problem even then. Those two things are at the crux of the mystery. Poppy, a thoroughly modern young woman, is determined to uncover all the unsavory business that threatens to harm more disadvantaged women. There are many parallels in that era and what we now are discussing on the national stage, and I enjoyed the unique perspective. Clues are made known to both Poppy and the reader, but I managed to be clueless about just whodunit. I loved the many surprises.

While many characters from previous books in the series make appearances, The Death Beat can be read as standalone. However, if you like historical mysteries, you may just want to get the three that are currently available — great for binge-reading fun.


Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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