Sir Hilary Manningham Butler gets invited to a party at Bletchley Park to celebrate the 20th anniversary of MI5 in September 1929 in The Scandal at Bletchley by Jack Treby. However, Sir Hilary has a secret that no one but his valet knows: he is really a woman who has lived all her life as a man. He (since Hilary lives as a man, I will use the masculine pronoun) even has a wife whom he thinks has no knowledge of his true sex. On the day that the stock market crashes in the U.S., Sir Hilary leaves for this fateful weekend party at which the eclectic group of guests do not know each other. He meets such people as the daughter of a cabinet member, a French doctor, an Indian academic, a chorus girl, and a famous muckraking journalist. However, there he runs into the one thing he has feared most: a person who might be able to recognize him as a woman. But Sir Hilary soon finds that others in the party have something to hide as well as he does. It doesn’t take long before he gets embroiled in murder.
This book moves quickly and has an interesting plot. Stories exist about women who have lived as men during eras when they faced personal oppression as women, so the existence of Hilary as a woman in disguise has credibility. Woman in Britain received the right to vote in two sets of legislation, first in 1918 and then in 1928, a mere year before the setting of this book. The topic of women’s suffrage arises in the book as the muckraking journalist, Anthony (Antony?) Sinclair (St. Clare?) holds vehement opinions that allowing women the vote has led to the destruction of all of England, and he decries the dreaded possibility that women may run the country someday. I couldn’t help but chuckle hearing this, knowing that Theresa May currently holds the position of Prime Minister of England.
This book deals with the issue of gender and the negative and ignorant attitudes of men who belittle women as well as life of a transgendered person. I thought the first person account from Hilary’s perspective worked well, giving us insight into the type of character, meaning a transgendered person, that is usually the “Other,” and not given the degree of understanding that we feel for Hilary. I should mention that he is not a modern version of a transgendered person but rather a woman rebelling against the social restrictions against women and who wants to participate in life more fully than women were allowed to do in the 1920s.
The author, Jack Treby, performs the narration of his own book, and I was impressed. In the age of plenty of excellent professional readers, authors don’t read their own works very often anymore, but Treby could just as well be a professional narrator. He creates good voices for the characters and sounds very descriptive in his depictions of the events.
The Scandal at Bletchley has a creative premise and interesting characters. I enjoyed listening to the book, and though there were a couple spots that I didn’t like as much as the rest, I still appreciated it. I was uncertain whether I wanted to get the second book in the series, but the conclusion gives me hope for future books, so I likely will. I give this book four stars!
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Disclaimer: I received this audio book free through Audiobook Boom, but that in no way influenced the content of my review.