Whilst this reader felt a follow up to The Dressmaker was not required (the ending being satisfactory enough and the heroine riding off into the sunset, albeit by country train), it was a joy to discover that Ms Ham had created sufficient material (and invented more issues) to write further of Tilly Dunnage and her old friends.
The subject of the title was revealed quite early on and it was heartwarming to discover the lengths to which Tilly’s circle of friends will go to assist her keep her secret. And more interesting to read of Tilly’s early years before she went to Europe and worked for the legendary haute couturier Mme Vionnet.
For those who have lived in Melbourne and traipsed around the city and East Melbourne on foot, Ms Ham’s realistic description of those streets in the 1950s is very true and much appreciated. In one passage she describes Tilly’s walk to Flinders Lane (rag trader alley); in reality it does take that much time (in heels), dodging trams, the cry of the newsboy’s “‘erald!” taking this reader back to another era in time and space.
The ending is somewhat bitter sweet for this reader, but probably unduly reflective of human nature and the small mindedness of country townsfolk in Australia of the ‘50s.
Reviewed by Belinda Coombs
Mystery and Crime Reading Group