EXCERPT: England, early 1950s
I have lost everything a person can lose. And, should I ever attempt to forget, my failing body will remind me. I’ve lived in the cramped attic flat of this big house in Birmingham, where I work as a housemaid, since the Red Cross parceled me up and sent me here seven years ago.
I see her face for the first time as I’m tidying up after Miss Irene and her brother had entertained some friends the previous evening. I’d heard them laughing as they danced to some of the records Miss Irene loves to buy, and later slamming the front door, starting up the growling engines of their sporty little cars and crunching the gravel on the driveway. It doesn’t matter how much noise they make. I seldom sleep for more than an hour at a time.
They’ve left most of the records scattered across the sideboard and, before I can dust and polish, I must match the black platters to their colourful sleeves and put them away on their allotted shelf.
I’ve heard the name Delia Maxwell, have caught snatches of her singing on the radio, but I haven’t seen her face before. Although her hair, always naturally wavy, is now a shining halo of blonde, and her heavily made-up eyes make her appear older, I recognize her instantly for who she really is.
She wears a strapless bodice of pearl white satin and has been posed smiling over one naked shoulder, her lips pink and glossy. I feel a spasm of hate such as I’d never felt for even the most sadistic guards in the camp.
I shuffle quickly through the other album sleeves, my hands shaking with shock and fury. There is only one other image of her. She has been photographed as if on stage, smiling and stretching out arms encased in long white gloves that match a floor length gown embroidered with a thousand sparkling diamante jewels. To one side of the cardboard square is simply the name Delia in a curling script of vivid pink. The image speaks of beauty and sophistication, of comfort and safety, of all the things she has taken away from me.
I’d never known what happened to her, whether she made good her escape or perished with so many countless others. The revelation that she is alive reminds me of why I have survived. I have a purpose after all.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Delia Maxwell is an international singing sensation, an icon of 1950s glamour who is still riding high on the new 60s scene. Adored by millions, all men want to be with her, all women want to be her. But one woman wants it maybe a little too much…
Lily Brooks has watched Delia all her life, studying her music and her on-stage mannerisms. Now she has a dream job as Delia’s assistant – but is there more to her attachment than the admiration of a fan? Private investigator Frank is beginning to wonder.
As Lily steps into Delia’s spotlight, and Delia encourages her ambitious protegée, Frank’s suspicions of Lily’s ulterior motives increase. But are his own feelings for Delia clouding his judgement?
The truth is something far darker: the shocking result of years of pain and rage, rooted in Europe’s darkest hour. If Delia thought she had put her past behind her, she had better start watching her back.
MY THOUGHTS: Time warp – and a delightful one!
We start in the early 1950s and ease into the 1960s music scene. It is wonderful reading about the clothes and music and films, a lot of which I remember. The story is narrated from the point of view, initially, of an unknown person, and then we move between Delia, Frank and Lily.
Delia is a star, one with a past that has stayed, until now, hidden. Frank is a friend of Delia’s manager, an old war buddy, suffering from shell shock (PTSD), and at a loose end. Peter brings him in to keep an eye on Delia, and to investigate Lily, who has inveigled herself into Delia’s life and launched herself into showbiz claiming to be Delia’s daughter. Is this true? And where does Delia disappear to on the eve of one of the most important days of her life?
Frank is an interesting character, perhaps the most interesting of all. He has an unrequited love in his past, and is a lost soul. He neither likes nor trusts Lily, and at times is at odds with Celeste, Delia’s best friend. His loyalties are tested before his past starts to catch up with him.
Although I thought I knew where this was going, I was wrong. I liked that it wasn’t predictable and that not everything was tied up neatly at the end. After all, life is not like that. V.B. Grey’s writing is easy to read and she creates an atmosphere of old world glamour with just a little seediness in the background. Tell Me How It Ends is an interesting read with a mystery and a grudge at it’s core that spans several decades, and which explores the mother/daughter bond, and survivors guilt.
‘People must always be forgiven for surviving.’
THE AUTHOR: After many years of writing television crime drama and the D.I Fisher series of contemporary crime novels as Isabelle Grey I wanted to take a different approach to my fiction – so please give a warm welcome to my pseudonym, V. B. Grey.
They say, Write the book you want to read. Well, I’ve always loved old noir movies and black & white melodramas – as well as their glamorous stars. Having written many screenplays for film and television, I wanted to immerse myself in stories inspired by my favourite films, and to create strong female characters who might once have been played by Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis or Joan Crawford.
Growing up in the 1960s I was also aware of the long shadow still cast by the Second World War, a subject I explore in ‘Tell Me How It Ends’.
I grew up in Manchester, England, and have an English degree from Cambridge. My first job was with a London antique dealer and I spent many years as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author (as Isabelle Anscombe) writing initially about the fascinating world of the art market and the history of decorative arts before going on to contribute features and reviews to national newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Psychologies. I have also written for film, television and radio drama.
I live and work in north London.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Tell Me How It ends by V.B. Grey for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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