The Crimson Rooms, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Evelyn is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her brother in the Great War, and to make her own way in the world - when a woman arrives with her brother's illegitimate child...Living at home with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Evelyn is still haunted by the death of her younger brother James in the First World War.

She is also determined to make a career for herself as one of the first female lawyers.

So when the doorbell rings late one night and a woman appears, claiming to have mothered James's child, her world is turned upside down.

Evelyn distrusts Meredith at first, but also finds that this new arrival challenges her work-obsessed lifestyle.

So far her legal career has not set the world alight.

But then two cases arise that make Evelyn realise perhaps she can make a difference.

The first concerns a woman called Leah Marchant whose children have been taken away from her simply because she is poor.

The second, Stephen Wheeler, has been charged with murdering his own wife.

It is clear that Wheeler is innocent but he won't talk. In the meantime, Meredith makes an earth-shattering accusation about James - and Evelyn falls in love with a man engaged to be married.

With the Wheeler case coming to a head, and her heart in limbo, Evelyn takes matters into her own hands...


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Review by

Katharine McMahon’s books are quite difficult to get in Australia- very few stores seem to stock them. I was introduced to this author after seeing Confinement on the shelves at Borders in Singapore, misread the blurb (I thought it was about a hospital- ‘health’ but it was about a school ‘heath’) but really enjoyed it even though not a great deal was resolved by the end of the book. So when I started The Crimson Rooms, I really didn’t know whether it would be in the same vein or not. The short answer is yes- things seem resolved in some respects, but not in others. It could be a case of too many different plots or a trait of this author’s writing.This book opens with Evelyn Gifford, the main character, opening her door one night to find a woman and boy standing there. The woman, Meredith, claims that Edmund is her dead brother’s son. Is she telling the truth? James died in the war (WWI) and the house has remained on tenterhooks ever since.Evelyn is also one of the first women to graduate with a law degree and is currently working with Mr Breen and co. Recently she has undertaken her first case- reunite a woman with her children. Then her boss asks her to become involved in a murder case, which finds Evelyn investigating and finding that everything is not as it seems. To top it off, there’s a romance.The ideas covered in the book were interesting, but I felt that there was too many plots to do justice to each. Meredith’s character floats in and out as she pleases and the ‘shocking truth’ is revealed too early in my book and then simply accepted. The love affair is potentially superfluous. The murder mystery was the most interesting and the best completed plot. While Evelyn’s championing of careers for women is important, it is too often relegated to a back role.Will I read another book by this author? Actually, I’ve got another one on the way. They are very well written, true to time and place but I’m hoping that the next book I read (The Rose of Sebastopol) doesn’t make me think ‘so what actually happened?’

Review by

The Crimson Rooms is a great story well told. Katherine McMahon’s tale of First World War trauma and loss is set in the mid-1920s, as Britain is trying to recover from the four years of bitter conflict. Evelyn Gifford is the protagonist, one of the first female trainee solicitors. The story is told through her eyes and encompasses a wide range of themes – her struggle to be taken seriously as a lawyer, the inability to have a rewarding career and to still be a woman, and how her gender often felt like a hindrance in trying to fight for justice for those she represents – all of which are warped by her grief at the loss of her younger brother in the trenches. <br/><br/>This is an atmospheric novel, rapidly and convincingly transporting the reader to London in 1924; there’s a real believability to the writing, but no soap opera, overly romantic slush. The characters are real and well drawn, and I enjoyed their company, despite the harrowing nature of some of their situations and dilemmas. There are no battle scenes or different time frames, yet the horror and obscenity of war permeates the narrative. Evelyn’s slightly dysfunctional family – shaken and bemused by the arrival of her dead brother’s wife – is well drawn, and it was moving and interesting to consider how hundreds of similar families must have been torn apart in the same way as the Giffords, and how they spent the next decade and more trying to adjust and over-compensate as a result of their stalled grief. <br/><br/>The three main narrative threads – Evelyn’s search for love, the arrival of Meredith with Evelyn’s young nephew, and the murder trial of Stephen Wheeler - all work seamlessly. This is good quality writing and I will be on the lookout for more of McMahon’s books. This really is a great read. <br/><br/>© Koplowitz 2013 <br/>

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