Saturday 7 October 2023

The Picture House Murders (The Miss Clara Vale Mysteries Book 1) by Fiona Veitch Smith (2023)



‘You know a book is good when you get up, realize you finished it last night and are really disappointed that you can’t read it with your breakfast. This book reminds me of the best golden age of mystery writers, especially Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers... Can’t wait for the next one!’ Reader review, 5 stars

Murder is no occupation for a lady... or is it?

1929: Miss Clara Vale is a woman ahead of her time. Rather than attending Oxford to bag an eligible Duke (as her mother, Lady Vale, so desperately hoped), she threw herself into a degree in chemistry, with aspirations to become a scientist in her own right.

But the world isn’t ready for Clara. Unable to land a job in science because she’s a woman, she is stuck behind the desk at a dingy London library.

Until her estranged Uncle dies suddenly, leaving her his private detective agency, and laboratory, in his will.

Clara couldn’t become a detective, could she?

The decision is made for her when one of her uncle’s old clients comes to her for help with a case surrounding the local picture house and invites Clara to see the latest show, before they discuss the details.

But during the film, a fire suddenly engulfs the picture house, with tragic consequences.

It seems at first an accident, but Clara soon begins to question if it was in fact a carefully orchestrated murder.

She’s suddenly in the middle of a deadly mystery and will discover her scientific skills make her a sleuth to be reckoned with... Can she catch the killer before they strike again?

The first in a brand-new, glittering Golden Age cozy mystery series. Fans of Verity Bright, Helena Dixon and TE Kinsey will be hooked from the very first page to the final breathtaking finale.


The Picture House Murders is an excellent start to a new series. Clara has inherited a business, a house and a good deal of wealth after the death of her uncle. Clara is an interesting character for the time period as she has a degree in science and an interest in continuing her uncle's enquiry agency.

The story reminds the modern reader of the limits society placed on women in the last century. Clara could not open a bank account without a letter of approval from her father or a male relative. 

The mystery starts as a small task of providing enough evidence to cast doubt that a fire at the picture house was arson and not negligence. However, Clara finds herself embroiled in a much more complex case of murder. Allies cannot always be trusted and Clara must tread carefully as she fits the puzzle pieces together.

There is the beginning of a romance for Clara here but I'm hoping she remains independent of a husband for as long as possible and holds on to her freedom that financial independence brings.

I listened to the audio version of this book and found the narrator to be excellent and I will be happy to continue to enjoy the series in this format.

About the author

Fiona Veitch Smith

Fiona Veitch Smith writes Golden Age mysteries and historical fiction. Her latest series, The Miss Clara Vale Mysteries, is about a lady forensic scientist who inherits a detective agency, set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1929. The

Miss Clara Vale Mysteries are published by Embla Books (Bonnier UK). The first, The Picture House Murders, is out in August 2023, The Pantomime Murders will follow in November 2023 and The Pyramid Murders in May 2024.

Fiona made her mark in the historical crime fiction world with her Poppy Denby Investigates books (Lion Fiction), set in the Roaring Twenties, which immerse readers in the culture of the time, while weaving intricate mysteries packed with whodunits and red herrings. Book 1, The Jazz Files, was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, while subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Foreword Review Mystery Novel of the Year and the People’s Book Prize. Fiona has also written for the children’s picture book market, with 14 books published by SPCK.

When not writing, Fiona mentors other novelists and was formerly the Communication.s Manager for the Crime Writers’ Association. Prior to that she worked as a journalist (in South Africa and the UK) and lectured in journalism at Newcastle University. She also spent seven years lecturing in creative and dramatic writing at Northumbria University. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband and teenage daughter. She loves her dogs and has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet – preferably not at the same time!

She is represented by Sara Keane of Keane Kataria Literary Agency




If you live in the Newcastle area you may want to check out the book launch on the 2nd of November. See the author's FB Newsfeed for the details.

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