England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …
Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.
What has she done?
Published in Paperback August 10th 2017 by Transworld (UK)
I’d heard so many great things about Dangerous Crossing from bloggers whose tastes and recommendations I trust and respect, and had it marked as a must read. So when the opportunity to read and review as part of the paperback release blog tour arose I was right on board (Ha!) I am so glad too as THIS is exactly the type of book I love to read. Immersive from the very first page, it’s a book that takes you away to another time and place entirely for a few hours and I devoured it in one sitting.
Dangerous Crossing begins in July 1939 when Lily Shepherd boards the cruise liner Orontes for a five and half week journey to Australia. Escaping her past, she’s hoping for adventure and a new life as part of the governments assisted passage scheme for young girls prepared to work in domestic service. While she’s set to work as a maid when she arrives, those five weeks aboard the ship are an opportunity to enjoy leisure and luxury, see some of the world and mingle with the varied and intriguing mix of characters among the other passengers, hailing from all walks of life. But with the world on the brink of war, tensions are high and Lily is set to discover that she isn’t the only one among her new friends with secrets to hide and a past they’d rather forget.
I loved, loved, loved this book. Rachel Rhys’ writing is atmospheric and captivating, bringing the world-within-a-world of life on a cruise liner alive. The setting of Dangerous Crossing is fantastic, an ideal and genius way to represent the breaking down of social barriers and conventions happening around this time, while adding complexity and tension through the suspicion and mistrust stirring among the passengers as war appears imminent. The rich cast of characters were intriguing and so vividly drawn I could almost see this book being acted out as I read. I also loved the author’s colourful depictions of the places the cruise liner visited, brought to life through the eyes of the somewhat naive and unwordly Lily.
The reader knows, from the beginning of the book, that when the ship finally reaches it’s destination, something awful has happened during the passage and a woman is led off in handcuffs, but with so many people with secrets to hide, and tensions reaching boiling point over the course of the five week journey, I had no idea who or what had occurred and the need to find out kept me turning the pages. What I particularly appreciated was the subtlety of the intrigue, which complimented the time and setting of the book perfectly. This isn’t an edge of your set mystery, and nor should it be. It’s a deliciously scandal packed unfurling of secrets, leading to a shocking climax I was not in the least expecting!
Dangerous Crossing is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of the year. I’ve been distracted and struggling recently with concentration and suffering the dreaded slump. This book was the perfect anti-dote and I enjoyed every single page. Rich, evocative and intriguing from start to finish, this is one book you don’t want to let sail by!