"The alleyway was quiet tonight, the perfect setting for the conveyance of secrets" as an unidentified woman confides one she's held for seven years. This shadowy intrigue permeates the opening of T.A. Willberg's debut, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, sucking readers into a fun and fast-paced story filled with murder, mystery, lies and Bondian gadgetry in 1958 London.
The how and who of the transmission plunges the narrative into the bowels of the city, where myth and history reside. Behind a loose brick, a carrier cylinder connects with miles of underground pneumatic piping. The piping system, like a "magical, invisible postman," routes hundreds of hidden mailboxes to one location--the Filing Department of the Inquirers, nameless sleuths who guard the city. Because the department operates outside the legal system, no one is sure it exists, only that justice is often mysteriously served.
Marion Lane longs to escape from under the thumb of her grandmother, who disapproves of independent women having their own lives. Marion's life changes drastically when an old friend of her deceased mother offers her a job at Miss Brickett's Secondhand Books and Curiosities. But Miss Brickett's has no customers, and Marion soon understands she's been recruited as an apprentice Inquirer.
Willberg creates an exceptional sense of place, and her diverse (and expansive) cast of characters makes for a long list of suspects when receipt of the secret results in murder. Marion and her cohorts race against time, villains and devilishly entertaining contraptions to throw a wrench in an evil plot. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review