Review Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder – T.A. Willberg

London, 1958:

Elaborately disguised and hidden deep beneath the city’s streets lies the world of Miss Brickett’s, a secret detective agency, training and housing the mysterious Inquirers. From traversing deceptive escape rooms full of baited traps and hidden dangers, to engineering almost magical mechanical gadgets, apprentice detectives at Miss Brickett’s undergo rigorous training to equip them with the skills and knowledge they will need to solve the mysteries that confound London’s police force.

But nothing can prepare 23-year-old apprentice Marion Lane for what happens after the arrest of her friend and mentor Frank on suspicion of murder: he has tasks Marion with clearing his name and saving his life. Her investigation will place Marion and her friends in great peril as they venture into the forbidden maze of uncharted tunnels that surround Miss Brickett’s.

Being discovered out of bounds means immediate dismissal, but that is the least of Marion’s problems when she discovered that the tunnels contain more than just secrets…

I requested this book from Netgalley mainly based on the cover… it is stunning. And when I found out the author is a South African based in Malta I was even more excited (yet slightly disappointed when the book was set in London…).

This is Willberg’s debut, and it is fairly obvious. I absolutely love the idea of it and the atmopshere throughout it all is great. We follow a young woman in her early twenties, who works as an apprentice in an underground spy agency and has a great talent for gadgets. These elements were done ever so well. Marion and her friends acted their age which was lovely to read.

But… the book is a mess. The means and the motive get rather mixed up making the hole thing rather confusing and illogical. Then there is the fact that the villain hosts a massive party to hide (attract attention to) his crime and disappearance. Willberg had this really interesting idea of a labyrinth with moving walls to hide this great secret… which then isn’t used at all. There is a potential love interest that is supposed to be incredibly attractive and handsome… but seems to me to be the complete opposite. And then there is the fact that at the end we need about 40 pages to get everything actually explained to us and to fix plot holes.

So yeah, I ended up giving this book only 2 stars because it just needed a lot of work still in my opinion. That being said though, I do want to continue the series because Willberg does have a great concept here and I think she can do some very interesting stuff with it.

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