Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Book Review: Death in a Blackout by Jessica Ellicott (WPC Billie Harkness Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and a decent mystery
Cons: Initial set up takes a while
The Bottom Line:
Billie starts over
And gets involved in murder
Debut show promise

Sets Up a Promising New Series

Since I’ve read all of Jessica Ellicott’s books written under her various pen names, starting her newest series was a no brainer.  While I did feel it had a slow start, I enjoyed Death in a Blackout, overall.

This book takes us to England in 1940.  After a tragedy at home, Billie Harkness finds herself needing a new start, so she accepts an invitation from a distant cousin to visit the northern coastal town of Hull.  She arrives just before Hull experiences its first air raid.  In the devastation that follows, Billie finds a dead young woman inside a building.  Surprisingly, no debris is around her body.  In her new job in the newly formed Women’s Police Constabulary, she starts a quiet investigation.  Can she figure out what really happened?

I have often noted over the years that it is unfair to judge a full series by the pilot of a TV show because the pilot has to introduce characters and situations, so it doesn’t really show off what the show can really do.  I felt that about this book as well.  We get the story of what it is that brings Billie to Hull before we really get into the heart of the mystery for this book.  Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t interesting, and it really helped develop Billie for us, so we already like her when she got involved in the mystery.  But it was setup none the less.

There are threads to the mystery introduced during this section of the book thanks to our second point of view character, Peter Upton, a volunteer constable.  Don’t worry, it is always obvious when we switch between these third person points of view.  Peter is also a strong character, and I enjoyed getting to know him as the book unfolded.

And yes, once the mystery really gets going, it is strong.  There were multiple twists as Billie and Peter worked to solve the case.  I was actually very surprised by the outcome.  I was sure things were going in another direction.  Yet things made sense.  In fact, I made the same connection at the same time Billie did.

If you are familiar with Jessica Ellicott’s Beryl and Edwina series, do note that this book has a more serious tone than that series.  It makes sense given the differences in time between the two books.  And this isn’t a dark book.  As long as you are know this when you pick it up, you’ll be fine.

What I really appreciated throughout the entire book was how the history was brought to life.  I felt like I was truly in 1940 England and understood the demands the war was having on everyday life for those at home as well as their desire to do something to help.  This isn’t a story that would work any other time or place.

Now that Billie is established in her new life and career, I’m looking forward to visiting her again and seeing what will happen to her next.  If you are looking to start a new historical mystery series, you’ll be glad you picked up Death in a Blackout.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Thanks for this informative review! I love Beryl and Edwina, and am looking forward to this new series. Knowing that it is a little more serious will put me in the right frame of mind.

  2. I haven't read anything by Ellicott, but this sounds good. And I love a good blackout.

  3. Your comment about not judging a series by the pilot was interesting. Perhaps I need to give a few cozies another chance - books that were OK but not great. You have great insight into writing a series.

  4. This sounds like an interesting start to a series!


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