Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers by Tessa Arlen
Published by Berkley on December 1, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
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It is the late autumn of 1942. Our indomitable heroine Poppy Redfern is thoroughly immersed in her new job as a scriptwriter at the London Crown Film Unit, which produces short films featuring British civilians who perform acts of valor and heroism in wartime. After weeks of typing copy and sharpening pencils, Poppy is thrilled to receive her first solo script project: a fifteen-minute film about the Air Transport Auxiliary, known as Attagirls, a group of female civilians who have been trained to pilot planes from factories to military airfields all over Britain.
Poppy could not be more excited to spend time with these amazing ladies, but she never expects to see one of the best pilots die in what is being labeled an accident. When another Attagirl meets a similar fate, Poppy and her American fighter-pilot boyfriend, Griff, believe foul play may be at work. They soon realize that a murderer with a desire for revenge is dead set on grounding the Attagirls for good. .
A certain intrepid WWII-era woman is back and has a new mystery to solve. Is it murder among the Attagirls? After appreciating the first book. with an engaging mystery set against the home front of England at War, I was eager to follow Poppy to London and see her spread her wings outside her village setting.
Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers is the second book in a series. A reader might dive in and do all right, but Poppy, Griff, and their situations are all introduced in the first book and I found it was better having read the first one.
In book one, Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, Poppy is chafing to get out and do something meaningful for the war effort, but had been stuck in her backwater village. Then she paired up with American flyer, Griff, to solve a series of murders and made a name for herself. But, ironically, she’s now languishing as nearly an office girl and longing to get into the action, which happens when she gets assigned to help with a propaganda film involving the Air Transport Auxiliary, an amazing group of civilian women pilots who step up to ferry planes about to free up the male pilots for combat. Incidentally, I’ve read other stories about these heroic flyers who moved planes and it was a hair-raising job much of the time.
Anyway, Poppy ends up working a piece about the Attagirls and soon spots foul play. Like the first book, she is plucky, but also an amateur so she suspects some wild exotic poison and dives into her sleuthing with fervor. I could have wished she had handled her way of catching her villain differently, it turned out to be a more complicated end than I saw coming. Part of that was because Griff was working his own line of the mystery and dug up even more.
Speaking of Griff, I was glad he was back and they are in the boyfriend-girlfriend status even if Poppy was giving him the stiff Brit routine much of the time. On one side, I was annoyed with her, but on the other, I get it- there’s a war on and she’s still pretty young and just getting her feet wet out there in the big wide world. They were working separate lines of investigation and had separate responsibilities for work so it was mostly time inside Poppy’s head about their relationship more than actual relationship time. I have a feeling things will settle down over the course of the series.
It did lag in the middle. The lush war-time setting and situations were painted well and I found that more fascinating than Poppy or the mystery at times as she checked out people and their stories. It was neat being in the Attagirl world. I can’t say I was thoroughly satisfied with that finish of the mystery either, but it did make sense when looking back on what came before.
All in all, I enjoyed this latest Poppy mystery and definitely want more. The author puts the time in to draw the setting and people well. The mysteries can draw out, but do get there. Historical mystery fans who like a young, intrepid heroine in war-time should give these a try.
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