Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon


The Crimson Rooms is set in post World War I London, England in the year 1924.  Evelyn Gifford is haunted by the death of her cherished brother James, who died in the Great War. Evelyn is stunned when a young woman named Meredith and her 6 year old son Edmund show up on the families doorstep. Meredith who is a nurse, claims that Edmund , conceived in a battlefield hospital, is the son of her brother James. The family take Meredith and Edmund in but they are still grief stricken from James death as well as the recent death of Evelyn's father.

Evelyn is 30 years old, unmarried and lives with her mother, grandmother and Aunt Prudence and supports her family. This is quite unusual as Evelyn is one of few female lawyers and is struggling in a field that is dominated by men and a society that is not accepting of female lawyers. Most women of this time do not attend college and have their own careers. They are to focus on finding a husband and starting a family.

Evelyn is soon swept up in two legal cases that effect her life in many ways. One case concerns a young mother whose children are taken away from her because she is poor and she cannot care for them. Evelyn learns about the plight of the poor in London and uncovers some unknown secrets about what happens to some of the children who are being taken care of by these charitable organizations. In another case, a man that is an acquantance of her boss is charged with the murder of his wife but won't speak to anyone. Evelyn meets and falls for a lawyer that appears to show interest in her and the murder case she is working on.

Evelyn must deal with a shocking allegation that Meredith claims about her brother James. It shatters her perceptions of her brother and she uncovers the layers of deception within her own family. Meanwhile, Evelyn must contine to fight for recognition and respect in her role as a female lawyer while trying to help these two cases. Both cases end with drama and mystery with some unexpected twists at the end.

Ms. McMahon skillfully builds a story that is complex and layered with great detail. There is great depth to the story as McMahon builds strong characters and a complicated plot. At first, the story seems a bit mired in detail but I soon realized that the depth and detail was needed to weave the story that would unwind at the end.  I enjoyed the historical aspects to the story which seemed to capture the spirit of this time period of London in the 1920's. There is murder mystery, courtroom dramas, social history and even a bit of love and romance mixed in. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction with a dash of mystery and romance worked in.

Katharine McMahon is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels The Alchemist's Daughter and The Rose of Sebastopol.  For more information, visit Katharine McMahon's Website, here.

The Crimson Rooms was just released on February 18th by Penguin Books.
The book is available at the following Online Retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Indiebound.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by MotherTalk on behalf of G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead and received an advanced copy of the book to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. I am an Amazon and Indiebound Associate.


  1. Sounds like it could be good, Bonnie. I'll put it on my list :)

  2. Great review! The Crimson Rooms sounds like a fantastic novel.

  3. Boy, does that sound good! You've piqued my interest and now I want to read that one!

  4. This sounds really interesting, and London in the 1920s seems like it would be an interesting time to read about. Great review!

  5. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one. Sounds like a story I could really get into!! Love the cover too!

  6. I just read the Postmistress which from a similar time period and partially set in England and I loved it. Looking forward to this one as well.

  7. I'm curious about this one so am glad to see a review. I wasnt' wowed by Rose of Sebastopol, but I think I will give this one a go.


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