Friday, March 18, 2016

Review: The Jazz Files

The Jazz Files
By Fiona Veitch Smith
Poppy Denby Investigates, #1
Kregel/Lion Hudson, 2015


Introducing Poppy Denby, a young journalist in London during the Roaring Twenties, investigating crime in the highest social circles!

In 1920, twenty-two year old Poppy Denby moves from Northumberland to live with her paraplegic aunt in London. Aunt Dot, a suffragette who was injured in battles with the police in 1910, is a feisty and well-connected lady.

Poppy has always dreamed of being a journalist, and quickly lands a position as an editorial assistant at the Daily Globe. Then one of the paper's writers, Bert Isaacs, dies suddenly--and messily. Poppy and her attractive co-worker, photographer Daniel Rokeby begin to wonder if it wasn't a natural death, but murder.

After she writes a sensational exposé, The Globe's editor invites her to dig deeper. Poppy starts sifting through the dead man's files and unearths a major mystery which takes her to France--and into deadly danger.

My thoughts

The Jazz Files, a delightful historical mystery set in London during the early 1920s, simply sparkles. Fiona Veitch Smith has done a wonderful job blending characters, setting, and plot together in a way that pulls you into the story. The mystery is well-crafted and I enjoyed the historical element as well – politics, dress styles, and what the world was like for women at the time. I haven’t read a lot of fiction set during the Roaring Twenties and wasn’t sure I would even like this era, but I was hooked from the first page. I do want to point out, however, that this is Christian fiction published in England, which is not as conservative as what American readers are used to.

Poppy, daughter of a Methodist minister in Northumbria, is an engaging and refreshing new character in the world of amateur detectives, and her job at The Daily Globe in London gives credence to her investigating. The title alone hints at an intriguing story, for in the newspaper world, jazz file is a descriptive term applied to “any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven.”  Powerful men in the House of Lords, police corruption, a vigilante group within the suffragette movement, and unexplained events going back seven years are woven together in this fascinating story.

Supporting characters are unusual and likeable, making me want to spend more time in Poppy’s world. She is a woman of faith and I found it interesting how the question of ethics came into play in the same way that it does today. Whenever the need for deceit and untruth arose in her investigations, Poppy wrestled with how far to go in order to achieve the greater good – and there are no easy answers, then or now.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Jazz Files and look forward to Poppy’s next case.


Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer of books, theatre plays and screenplays. Her children’s picturebooks, the Young David series, are now published by SPCK Publishing. Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, is available from September 2015.

She is a member of the British Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers. Fiona is also the editor of the popular writing advice website The Crafty Writer and her courses attract students from around the world. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities.

Thank you to Kregel for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


  1. Carole it always amazes me how alike our views are on books. This one was a winner for me as well. Thanks for your insightful reviews!

    1. Beckie, I promise that I didn't see your review until after I had written mine! British fiction has always been a favorite of mine and Fiona's writing has whetted my appetite for more of these characters and setting.

  2. Great review - it sounds like another one for my to-read pile.

    1. Thank you, Iola. I've always been crazy about British fiction and think this is one you would enjoy.