A Dangerous Crossing
by Rachel Rhys
1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.
But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.
By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.
Lily shepherd is travelling to Australia, taking advantage of a government assisted place programme. She has to spend two years in domestic service when she arrives, but nevertheless she is looking forward to her new life and new adventures, hoping it will help her escape events from her past life.
The ocean liner provides an existence bubble away from the protocols of real life; class boundaries blur and unlikely friendships are struck up.
Set in the period leading up to WWII, many of the ship’s passengers are trying to escape the impending war and their own dark secrets. As the voyage goes on it becomes clear that something tragic is going to happen.
I absolutely adored this Agatha Christiesque tale of decadence and intrigue. The sights, sounds and smells of this ocean liner are brought brilliantly to life by clever, astute writing of the highest order. The stop-overs at the various countries immerse you in the crowds, the bustle, the cultures; you don’t just read this book: you feel it and experience it.
The characters are wonderful, Lily, who is at the heart of the story, trying to escape her demons and forge a new life; Max and Eliza, first class passengers who befriend Lily; the unstable George Price, with fascist leanings; Maria, a Jewish woman fleeing Europe and its impending war; and brother and sister Edward and Helena Fletcher who are also harbouring secrets.
The cover of the book is just perfect, the huge liner about to take over everyone’s life and one of the passenger’s (Lily?) so small looking up to a new life, yet seemingly up to her neck in water.
I am not sure how you would describe this book; it’s not classic murder/mystery with suspects, more historical drama with intrigue. However you describe it, it is wonderful, an absolute gem and highly recommended.