by A. M. Stuart
Publisher: Oportet Publishing 2023
The next instalment in the riveting HARRIET GORDON MYSTERIES.
The chance to pursue a new opportunity takes Harriet and her brother Julian, to Kuala Lumpur, but death is waiting…
Singapore 1910: Harriet Gordon has been dismissed from the job she loved and finds herself cast adrift. When her brother receives an invitation to visit a prestigious school in Kuala Lumpur, she and Julian decide to leave Singapore behind for a few days, but their pleasant visit takes a dark turn when a visitor to the school is shot dead on the front steps of the headmaster’s bungalow.
After being suspended from the Straits Settlements Police, Inspector Robert Curran has disappeared on a personal quest to find a missing girl, but his suspension is not all it appears and he receives secretive orders to investigate the mysterious Topaz Club, which seems to be at the centre of high-level corruption within the colonial government of Malaya.
The death of a woman with links to the Topaz Club, which wasn’t investigated, brings Harriet and Curran together in a determination to shut down the notorious establishment for good.
But a devious criminal stands in the way and it is going to take Harriet and Curran all their resources to bring justice for the victims of the Topaz Club and in doing so, find what it is they have been looking for in each other.
by Robyn Walton
Terror in Topaz features a woman charged for repeatedly shooting a man in the back. The victim is a mine manager, the year 1910, the setting colonial Kuala Lumpur, and no one is trying very hard to assert the lady’s innocence.
If you find yourself recalling Somerset Maugham’s stories set in the East, you’ll have your confirmation when you reach Melbourne-based A.M. Stuart’s Author Notes. Stuart has based her plot on newspaper accounts of a 1911 death in KL, the same murder which inspired Maugham to write “The Letter” after he heard of it in the 1920s. Who writes it better? Maugham, but that’s not to say Stuart doesn’t tell her tale skilfully, with a nice line in social commentary relayed by her protagonist, typist and suffrage advocate Harriet Gordon.
A linked story arc starring Harriet’s love interest, senior policeman Robert Curran, targets the Topaz Club, the kind of establishment familiar from many a thriller. Operating out of isolated, guarded premises, the club offers clients a casino, alcohol, drugs of addiction, and sex workers (who’ve been trafficked and coerced), plus the likelihood of being blackmailed.
There have been three previous novels and a novella in this mystery series, which (I’m happy to say) looks set to continue.