Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …
Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.
What has she done?
This novel is set on-board a vessel departing England for Australia. The era is 1939 and the second world war looms in the background throughout the novel. I found the novel to be an intricate story of some of the passengers on-board and their relationships with one another. At times I did long for more tension and drama. But this is the 1930s and tension/drama is named as scandal and the novel is packed full of 1930s scandals………
Lillian ‘Lily’ Shepherd is a young woman, coming of age. She leaves behind some dark secrets in England and a family that loves her. She is departing on the Orontes ship for two years’ domestic servitude. Travelling in a third class cabin in F deck, which will be shared with three others and Mrs Collins as their appointed official to accompany the young women.
I got the real sense that Lily was running away from something and her past is interwoven into the plot.
“it’s only two years, remember? I’ll be home before you know it” Lily Shepherd
On-board the ship, Lily meets a wealth of characters and these form the basis of the plot and build the novel to its fantastic ending! Clara and Peggy Mills are a mother and daughter travelling alone. Edward and Helena Fletcher are also a brother and sister traveling to a new life. George Price is heading to New Zealand, his wealthy father wanting to avoid his sole heir being called up to ww2. Lily also meet the elusive and mysterious married couple Eliza and Max Campbell. The Campbell’s are currently first class passengers but enjoying mixing with others, due to a secret in their past. Maria Kats is an Austrian Jewish woman, fleeing for her life, she is disliked by the others but Lily refuses to be ‘told’ with whom she can be friends.
Lily is warned many times that the Campbell’s are dangerous and it isn’t until she starts to witness it with her own eyes, she sees just how much. Ida, one of the other young women leaving for a life of servitude, warns Lily about soiling her reputation. But Lily remains firm, she will decide for herself who her friends are. On-board with illness rife and being in such close proximity to one another. The characters begin to share their secrets and lies, taking one another in confidence.
For one of the group, this shall have deadly consequences………..
When Maria is assaulted, we see a change in the dynamics. Some of the group and the captain show clear disdain for people of the Jewish faith. With George even, going as far, as saying he agrees with Hitler’s attitudes towards Jews. I found this quite shocking! But how they judge each other on the basis of gender, faith and class, is entirely accurate with the era, sadly. The Campbell’s past unravels slowly and we the reader are exposed to scandal after scandal. It’s quite clear the Campbell’s revel in the drama and intrigue of the scandals they create. I found them fascinating as characters, but dreadful as people.
“Damaged people are dangerous people” Ian Jones
Australian natives Ian Jones and his fellow engineers are introduced to the story. It was interesting to read how the group responded to them and they to the group. The gossip and speculation is rife throughout the story. There’s an abject level of snobbery throughout the passengers for various reasons. It builds and builds to a strange, yet engrossing ending, that most readers will NOT spot coming!
I enjoyed this novel and felt the portrayal of characters and the historical accuracy for the era were fabulous. I would definitely read another historical crime fiction novel by the author. The central characters all have depth and Lily as a protagonist is believable and likeable.
I really warmed to Lily throughout the novel. The rose amongst the thorns! 4*
“Lily, do you ever feel as if you only exit when you see yourself reflected back in somebody else’s eyes?” Eliza Campbell.