A fast paced, multi layered page turner, VIOLET KELLY AND THE JADE OWL by Fiona Britton is divided into thirty one chapters. It is of medium size and thickness.

It is set in Sydney during the 1930’s, just before the Harbour Bridge is completed, so think The Great Depression, hidden poverty,  adversity and hunger as a background. Crime and corruption are also a major feature.

Violet is a more than capable, energetic, vigorous character, spunky and courageous sex worker with lots of hot and steamy flourishes to delight her clients. She works at La Maison Des Fleurs ,where she is a very expensive talent.

In some ways Violet is a Sydney cousin of the adventurous Phryne Fisher of Melbourne. She lives only a short walk away from the Tilly Devine agencies and the razor gangs, (La Maison is now where the Sydney Dance/Sydney Theatre company studios are !) but Violet has survived a horrendous time in a Catholic orphanage and is resolved to create a more than comfortable future.

Other characters are well developed, including Madame, her great friend Bunny the other denizens of La Maison and Violet’s twin sister Iris with whom she has a very strained relationship at first when she suddenly materialises back into Violet’s life.

There is also Violet’s love interest the captivating diplomat Philip Chandler, Doctor Flanagan, and Li Ling , Charlie and Albert. Their friend Albert is a butcher’s apprentice, which allows him to move in some of Paddington’s social circles as well as entry to a degree of the razor gangs of the era. Being the Depression, with people living on what they could possibly hunt, steal or beg and camping out homeless, (sound familiar? Very like people who are homeless and stressed today) Violet and Albert regard themselves as fortunate.

But the main narrative is of a cold hearted, vile nefarious crime lord, Xiao, who has arranged for a stunningly beautiful Chinese sex worker, Shen,  to be smuggled to Sydney so he can kill her slowly and agonizingly. Xiao has links to Madame’s past and has some very dubious associates. Can Violet safely manipulate the unwritten dark Underbelly rules or does her impetuous spontaneity imperil everyone?

The jade owl of the title that Shen wears as a necklace is not to do with Athena but to Asian eyes is a bringer of much bad luck and possibly even a harbinger of death.

Can Violet and her friends save Shen?

Their exciting adventures are delightfully detailed . One eagerly awaits another book ..