1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world on board: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day. But soon she realises her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.
Glamour, cocktails, beautiful locations – a first class read!
It’s July 1939 and over the course of five weeks we follow Lily Shepherd as she travels from England to Australia aboard ocean liner Orontes. A lot can happen in five weeks, friendships can be made and broken, war can break out, secrets can be discovered and lives can be lost.
I completely adored this book. We start at the end with ‘A Dangerous Crossing’. The opening lines immediately grabbed my attention, they dangled in front of me a tantalising promise of an intriguing, gorgeously written, enjoyable read and that is precisely what I got.
‘Sandwiched between two policemen, the woman descends the gangplank of the ship’
The whole time I was reading I was asking myself – just who is this woman? What has she done in order to be escorted by policemen? Those two questions resounded in my head every time I picked up this book, every character I came across I wondered ‘is this her?’ and I couldn’t wait to have the answers.
Rich in detail, steeped in history, and with stunning descriptions – characters and places leap from the page and unfold in your imagination wonderfully. It feels like you’re walking alongside the passengers and experiencing life aboard the Orontes first hand. The oppressive heat is suffocating and the inescapable environment is claustrophobic. With stops in Gibraltar, Cairo, Ceylon, Italy, France and Australia, Rachel Rhys offers us vibrant snap shots of exotic locations. I have a friend who lives in Gibraltar and Lily’s experience on the island with its monkeys did amuse me!
There is a varied and colourful cast of characters and like all good reads, some we like, some we hate and some we just can’t suss out. Class lines are blurred on the ship, friendships are formed where they wouldn’t normally be and it soon becomes apparent that everyone has something to hide.
‘On a boat like this… everyone is running away from something’
While I must admit I was expecting slightly more of a crime read, I still thoroughly enjoyed this. The attention to detail is outstanding and I found myself utterly immersed in the world Rachel Rhys created. It is the most perfect book to escape with, a definite first class read!
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 5/5 STARS
Rachel Rhys is the pen-name of suspense author Tammy Cohen. A Dangerous Crossing is her debut novel under this name. The story is inspired by a real diary which the author discovered by accident while helping her mother move house.
Final cover art from waterstones.com
If you enjoy ‘Dangerous Crossing’ then you should try:
‘Death On The Nile’ by Agatha Christie
‘The Ship of Brides’ by Jojo Moyes