Book Review: A Dangerous Crossing, by Rachel Rhys

Book Review: A Dangerous Crossing, by Rachel Rhys

A servant girl’s life becomes surreal when she responds to an ad for government-assisted passage to Australia and befriends the more well-to-do and racy set.

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A Dangerous Crossing is described by Penguin as “an enthralling novel in the great tradition of Agatha Christie or Patricia Highsmith”.

Interestingly, there have been a few books released over the past year about mysteries on the high sea (see Glam Adelaide’s review of The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware) or mysteries during world wars (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or see Glam Adelaide’s review of The German Girl by Amanda Correa). A Dangerous Crossing combines the two in a seductive story of glamour and murder on an ocean liner bound from England to Australia in 1939.

Lily Shepherd is stuck in a life of drudgery as a servant in England when she spots an ad in the newspaper for government-assisted passage to Australia. Life aboard the ship quickly becomes almost surreal as she is befriended by the more well-to-do and racy set through Max and Eliza Campbell. Max and Eliza are rich but frowned upon by the upper class for drinking too much, dancing too much, and just being too much for the upper class. Lily becomes almost seduced by their lifestyle, so different to hers, and as Eliza says, “You can do whatever you want aboard a boat, behave as badly as you like, and when you get to wherever you’re going it’s as if it never happened. When the ship sails away your sins go with it.”

As the trip goes on, more secrets come out, more mysteries are brought to light and many characters are not what they first seem – is Ida simply a working-class room-mate who wants to be Lily’s friend? Is Maria, their other room-mate, really becoming ill or looking for attention? When Maria disappears, what really happened? And who dies?

Rachel Rhys is the pen-name of Tamar (Tammy) Cohen, a well-known writer of dark psychological thrillers. This book is a slight departure from these as it is much lighter and an easier read but still has a thin ribbon of darkness throughout. Her agent’s website describes how she was motivated to write this story after accidentally finding a real diary, describing a servant girl’s sea voyage, while helping her mother move house.

This is a book that is easy seduces the reading into “just the one more page” – you can see why Lily was seduced by the glamour of the Campbells – and at 360 pages, just one more page tends to lead to a night of no sleep!

Reviewed by Michelle Baylis

Rating out of 10:  7

Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: April 2017
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 ebook

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