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A Kind of Healthy Grave by Jessica Mann

For a rich cast, sprightly invention and a wicked last sentence, Jessica goes right to the top of the class. John Coleman, Sunday Times

The man called Rex used to come alone to the caravan in the woods, or brought anonymous, raffish friends. He had known nobody locally and no one knew anything about him. When the caravan was destroyed by fire the verdict at the inquest was accidental death. It was 1929.

Thus starts a murder mystery of formidable power and subtlety. There are other murders, but the particular force of this novel lies in its evocation of relationships long ago, the drawing back of veils to reveal yet more mysteries.

Tamara Hoyland, the heroine of many of Jessica Mann’s novels, plays a leading role. She is placed amidst a strong cast of women to provide the contrast between heroines real, imagined or pretence. Another discussion of feminism in the novel is through a new movement called ‘Watchwomen’ which claims that feminism has been hi-jacked by socialists or lesbians.

Rex had been a pornographic painter, cause of scandal in the 1920s, imprisoned for obscenity. The subtle and deceiving plot proceeds apace against some dazzling observation of our own time but also times remembered, the high jinks of the raffish twenties conjured back to life in a literary tour-de-force