Dead Man Switch: Sydney, 1946 is not ready for Billie Walker

What is this about?:  Billie Walker is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young man in 1946, Sydney. Accompanied by her assistant, Sam, she is about to find herself dropped into the middle of something much bigger than she previously thought.

What else is this about?: This is a superb introduction to Billie and 1946, Sydney. Billie has to deal with sexism and macho bluster, but she is more than capable.

Blurb

Bestselling author Tara Moss returns to crime fiction with a stunning new series, and a stunning new heroine. Meet PI Billie Walker – smart and sexy, with a dash of Mae West humour, she’s a hard-boiled detective with a twist.

She’s a woman in a man’s world …

Sydney, 1946. Billie Walker is living life on her own terms. World War II has left her bereaved, her photojournalist husband missing and presumed dead. Determined not to rely on any man for her future, she re-opens her late father’s detective agency.

Billie’s bread and butter is tailing cheating spouses – it’s easy, pays the bills and she has a knack for it. But her latest case, the disappearance of a young man, is not proving straightforward …

Soon Billie is up to her stylish collar in bad men, and not just the unfaithful kind – these are the murdering kind. Smugglers. Players. Gangsters. Billie and her loyal assistant must pit their wits against Sydney’s ruthless underworld and find the young man before it’s too late

The cover for Dead Man’s Switch is the very definition of mysterious and more than a little alluring. Wrapped in half-light, gun at the ready you are immediately aware that this woman is ready for anything — that the anything is in Sydney in 1946, just makes this all the better.

Billie is a private inquiry agent — that’s what PIs were called back then. She’s returned from the war in Europe, where her husband has disappeared and is presumed dead and re-opened her father’s detective agency. Her mother is Ella, a glorious woman who keeps up appearances even as she is beginning to sell off her heirlooms to survive. Post-WW2 everything is scarce, and rationing is a way of life.

I started inserting the word Badass before Billie’s name at some point in the book. I have no regrets.

But back to Billie — Sam is another character that stands out. He is her assistant at a time when that was unexpected to say the least. Injured in the war, he’s returned with a disability, and in a society where men are returning and taking over the jobs women held, and did well, Sam would find that hard to accomplish. That said, Sam is the kind of man Billie can count on, and the person she’ll call to help deal with a dead body. Literally.

So, there’s a case to be solved — a missing boy, Adin. Billie and Sam track him to an auction house, and along the way stumble into dead bodies, dangerous men and corrupt cops. I got lost in the setting — and I don’t like historical novels — but I genuinely got lost in the atmosphere of the novel, in Sydney in 1946 — and of course, Billie. She is carving her own path in this post-WW2 world, and she is doing it the best she can.

This book is action-packed, and Billie is more than capable of holding her own — it made me want to see her during the war, navigating the treachery that comes with that environment and seeing how she became the woman she is in this book.

Mind you, her father and mother present an equally interesting family picture, and Billie is the type of character that would have learned how to handle herself long before entering the war thanks to her father’s influence. I also think Ella, her mother, contributes more than her fair share to Billie’s fearlessness. This is a woman who immigrated to Australia from Holland to be with her first husband, who cheated on her. She fell in love the man getting evidence of her first husband’s infidelities, had Billie out of wedlock and told society where to stick their societal expectations — she was going to be happy.  Billie and her mother are feminists in a society that doesn’t know what that means, IMO. And in addition, Billie and her family history genuinely make for a compelling unit, and I feel like there are stories left to be told there — about her parents and herself.

Of course, nothing is ever straightforward, and Billie finds her search for the missing boy grow far bigger than she thought — and involve a young Aboriginal girl who is intent on helping friends of hers, working in a house for a man who just possibly will never let them go. This part of the story reminded me that the war has not yet loosened its grip on Billie’s world or Australia.

Above, I mentioned that historical fiction is not my favourite genre, but here’s the thing: I didn’t notice I was reading a historical novel. It’s weird right — I mean with the setting of 1946 will come sexism, rationing and all sorts of things that should stand out to me and sit this book in the historical fiction genre, BUT I was so wrapped up in the story, in Bille, Sam and Ella that I kind of forgot that is was a historical novel. 

Now what needs to happen is the next instalment of the Billie Walker Mysteries to hurry up and get here!

4 Comments

  • Silvia says:

    I agree about the cover, it’s catchy and it totally gives the right vibes! I love the fact that it’s an historical fiction and yet, you forgot that while reading the book, it shows how invested you were in the story and the characters. You really piqued my curiosity with this intriguing book, I hope you won’t have to wait for the next instalment too long *fingers crossed*

  • Jen Mullen says:

    Yes! I like the whole package on this one. From the cover, to the setting, and to the male assistant!

  • This sounds fantastic. I do love a badass so I’m very interested in meeting Billie.

  • Kelly says:

    You had me at Mae West humour. I typically really enjoy historical fiction told from the point of view of a female protagonist, a woman pushing boundaries and breaking that glass ceiling in a male dominated world.It’s probably one of my favourite tropes and why I navigate towards dystopian fantasies as well. I love the sound of Billie’s character but her mother sounds like a pioneer. I haven’t read anything from Tara Moss before but will definately be starting with this one. Thanks for putting it on my radar, beautiful review darling!

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