Explain My Shelf by Sara Sheridan

These bookshelves are in my study all down one wall. They’ve been the background for many an author pic and interview but the truth is they’re not mine – or at least very few of them are. The shelves are actually the province of my husband and when we first moved in together they caused a war. I’m a library user and I just don’t hoard books – to me, they’re for sharing. I buy books, read them and pass them on. I borrow books from the library, take notes and pop them back again. Books exist for me, not as physical entities with pages and binding, but in the province of my mind. A book is a story – even if it’s non-fiction, and once I’ve read it, I have the story with me, inside my head, always. I just don’t need it any more.

This is shocking for many people and I admit that three single shelves of this array do belong to me, reserved for books that I adore – stories I know I want to read again and again and even quote from. Those books are a medicine cabinet of healing words. T C Boyle’s Water Music. Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea. I wouldn’t be without them. As to the rest…

I wanted him to clear it out. There were multiple copies of some books – different editions. We fought about it and I sneaked some away to the charity shop, which incensed the poor man. Then we realised that our minds work differently. To him a book is a totem – the physical personification of his reading appetite. If he rid himself of these books it would be a desecration of his reading memory.

I relented. So did he. And the bookshelves do look lovely. One day, we say wistfully, we’ll shelve them properly but for now it’s a Lucky Dip. And I lucky dip now and then. So I have the bookshelves to thank for introducing me to the delights of Robert Sheckley and Rev J P Martin – books I found on a rainy day on a high shelf – unopened for years and now alive in my mind.

Dangers abound in 1950s Brighton as former Secret Service operative Mirabelle Bevan cuts to the chase to solve multiple murders . . .

When sportswriter Joey Gillingham stops off at a Brighton barbershop for a shave and a trim, he gets more than he bargained for—a slashed throat. The journalist’s next headline story in the paper is his obituary.

With the ghastly murder the talk of the seaside town, Mirabelle and her close friend and coworker Vesta Churchill find themselves irresistibly drawn to the case. Rumors of the newspaperman being a member of the freemasons lead the ladies to the group’s local lodge, where they happen upon a cleaning lady in the throes of poisoning. Are the two deaths related? The common thread seems to connect to the secret society.

Despite being warned off by Superintendent McGregor, the fearless friends continue to investigate, breaking into an abandoned royal residence in Brighton and following a trail of clues to a Cambridge college and bizarre masonic rituals.

To beard the lion in his own den, Mirabelle and Vesta will need to walk the razor’s edge—but with desperate characters and more bodies turning up, it’s going to be a close shave . . .

“Adventurous and tough, the heroine must fight the perception that women are useless as sleuths, and her sidekick has an even tougher time battling prejudice against both women and black people as they unravel a puzzling mystery.”– Kirkus Reviews

“Sheridan has a gift for evoking the era’s class, racial, and social tensions.” – Publishers Weekly

Praise for the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries

Brighton Belle

“An entertaining mystery read—light, intriguing and ideal for a weekend escape.” —RT Book Reviews

“A wonderful book for those who like to take a peek at life in the 1950s, including the mores, manners, and clothes.” —Publishers Weekly

“One part Nancy Drew, two parts Jessica Fletcher, Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot.” —Sunday Herald

“Great fun. The world needs Mirabelle’s feistiness, intelligence and charm.” —James Runcie, author of the Grantchester mysteries

London Calling

“An extraordinarily rich historical.” —Publishers Weekly

“As a British historical mystery, this fits the bill.” —RT Book Reviews

“A beguiling page-turner.” —Good Book Guide