by Rachel Heath
When 17-year-old Laura Trelling meets debonair Paul Lovell at a party she seizes the chance to escape the grey of postwar England for the scorching sun of Johannesburg, Paul's suspicious parents and his own increasing absences. For this is pre-apartheid South Africa, and Laura's new husband fancies himself a secret revolutionary. Meanwhile, another disenchanted young Englishwoman, the beautiful, giddy aspiring actress Gay Gibson, is foisted by circumstance on to sullen, awkward Laura. The two become close conspirators. After Laura's marriage ends and Gay's scandalous behaviour among the jetset threatens to overwhelm them, they arrange to return to England. But during the sea voyage Gay disappears. Based on the infamous "porthole murder" trial of 1948, this is an exceptionally well-written, suspenseful novel. Heath combines imaginative, fast-paced storytelling with an unerring sense of period, place and mood.
The Finest Type of English Womanhood, was shortlisted for the Costa first novel award.