Book Review: Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

England, September 1939

Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go…

Australia, six-weeks later

The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

What I Thought:
Dangerous Crossing is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, based purely on the fantastic Art Deco cover on the hardback. While that cover does not make it over to the paperback release, the book inside beautifully captures the late 1930s and a world on the brink of war.

Lily Shepherd is a Third Class passenger, her passage paid in return for her going into domestic service in Australia, but she crosses class lines to befriend some of the First Class passengers – namely the mysterious Max and Eliza Campbell – who come to dominate Lily’s time on the voyage.

There is a great deal of period detail, captured in all things from the class divide, to the Mussolini posters when the party goes ashore and to the tensions that are raised when Italian and Jewish passengers come aboard, making for Australia. Much of this can be attributed to a diary the author found, she explains in the book club notes of this edition, chronicling a similar, real-life voyage made by a young girl under the same scheme as Lily.

The book builds slowly, emphasising the claustrophobia of being on a ship for 6 weeks with the same people, and little chance to go ashore, until the final unguessable mystery unfolds in only the last few pages, and proves absolutely scandalous for the age.

Beautifully written, Dangerous Crossing is a perfect modern tribute to the mystery novels of the 1930s and definitely recommended.

Dangerous Crossing is published by Black Swan.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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