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The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon
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The Crimson Rooms (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Katharine McMahon

Series: Evelyn Gifford (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2611977,886 (3.51)16
Evelyn is a young woman who has defied convention to become one of the country's pioneer female lawyers. Living at home with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Evelyn is still haunted by the death of her younger brother James in the First World War. Therefore, when the doorbell rings late one night and a woman appears claiming to have mothered James's child, Evelyn's world is turned upside down. Evelyn distrusts Meredith at first, but she also finds that this new arrival challenges her work-obsessed lifestyle. So far her legal career has not set the world alight. But then two cases arise that make Evelyn realize that perhaps she can make a difference. The first concerns a woman called Leah Marchant, whose children have been taken away from her simply because she is poor. In the second case, Stephen Wheeler-a former acquaintance of Daniel Breen, her boss-has been charged with murdering his own wife. It is clear to Breen and Evelyn that Wheeler is innocent but he won't talk. After being humiliated in court, Evelyn is approached by the dashing lawyer Nicholas Thorne. She is needled by his privileged background and old-fashioned attitudes, but, despite being engaged, he cannot seem to resist sparring with this feisty young female. In the meantime, Meredith makes an earth-shattering accusation about James. With the Wheeler case coming to a head and her heart in limbo, Evelyn takes matters into her own hands.… (more)
Member:Michele5
Title:The Crimson Rooms
Authors:Katharine McMahon
Info:Putnam Adult (2010), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:AUTHOR - Katharine McMahon, Historical Fiction

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The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon (2009)

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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
set after WWI — London — many men, young, dead, wounded, maimed — heroes of war
children send to orphanages — sent to Canada as servants / abused

Still haunted by the death of her only brother, James, in the Great War, Evelyn Gifford is completely unprepared when a young nurse and her six-year-old son appear on the Giffords' doorstep one night. The child, the nurse claims, is James's, conceived in a battlefield hospital. The grief-stricken Giffords take them both in; but Evelyn, a struggling attorney, must now support her entire family—at a time when work for women lawyers is almost nonexistent.

Suddenly a new case falls in Evelyn's lap: Seemingly hopeless, it's been abandoned by her male coworkers. The accused—a veteran charged with murdering his young wife—is almost certain to die on the gallows.... And yet, Evelyn believes he is truly innocent, just as she suspects there may be more to the story of her "nephew" than meets the eye...
  christinejoseph | Jul 7, 2017 |
The Crimson Rooms by Katherine McMahon
An interesting story set in 1920s London. It is partly a murder mystery, part social commentary and part romantic drama. I found most of the characters well-rounded and believable apart from Meredith who seemed to veer wildly from incredibly flighty and irresponsible to very sensitive and wise.
On the whole I very much enjoyed this book and was captivated to the end.
The end was very harsh. I kept hoping for things to get resolved but in a way it was more true to life as it stood.
A minor irritation was the use of the word 'hung' when it should have been 'hanged'. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Jan 2, 2014 |
I didn't realize this was by an author I'd tried to read before, but I figured I'd give it a try. The first chapter seemed really good, so I thought I'd keep going. It wasn't as strong after that, but I thought it was ok, though I credit that to having been sleep-deprived. I got a good night's sleep, and then I realized that this wasn't the book for me. I didn't like the characters, and the writing was so sappy and overly wordy. Just too annoying in so many ways. ( )
  digitalmaven | Oct 24, 2013 |
This is a really enthralling book. It's set in 1924. James Gifford was killed in WW1 and his sister Evelyn and her family have been living in the shadow of this event ever since. His hat still hangs on the hatstand in the hall and the book opens with Evelyn having what seems to be a regular nightmare about trying to save him from the sea of mud. She's awoken by the door and the arrival of a stranger with her son, who she claims is James'.
The book then follows several strands. the first is the family trying to adjust to the arrival of Meredith and Edmund, as well as the sometimes uncomfortable information that she brings with her about James's last few weeks. Intertwined with this are Evelyn's cases concerning a man supposed to have murdered his wife and a woman who surrendered her children to a charity home and now wants them back. In each case, Evelyn is the junior clerk on the case, as they've been assigned to the only chambers that would take her. and while Evelyn is set om law and being one of the first women lawyers, she is also struggling with the concept that she is only here because James isn't - he was supposed to have followed in his father's footsteps and taken up law.
There is also a romance that, it turns out, wasn't what it seemed. The cases become mingled with her private life and her past, such that the war is still a significant impact on the murder case, and the real cause is murkier than it might appear. ( )
  Helenliz | Aug 19, 2013 |
The Crimson Rooms is a great story well told. Katherine McMahon’s tale of First World War trauma and loss is set in the mid-1920s, as Britain is trying to recover from the four years of bitter conflict. Evelyn Gifford is the protagonist, one of the first female trainee solicitors. The story is told through her eyes and encompasses a wide range of themes – her struggle to be taken seriously as a lawyer, the inability to have a rewarding career and to still be a woman, and how her gender often felt like a hindrance in trying to fight for justice for those she represents – all of which are warped by her grief at the loss of her younger brother in the trenches.

This is an atmospheric novel, rapidly and convincingly transporting the reader to London in 1924; there’s a real believability to the writing, but no soap opera, overly romantic slush. The characters are real and well drawn, and I enjoyed their company, despite the harrowing nature of some of their situations and dilemmas. There are no battle scenes or different time frames, yet the horror and obscenity of war permeates the narrative. Evelyn’s slightly dysfunctional family – shaken and bemused by the arrival of her dead brother’s wife – is well drawn, and it was moving and interesting to consider how hundreds of similar families must have been torn apart in the same way as the Giffords, and how they spent the next decade and more trying to adjust and over-compensate as a result of their stalled grief.

The three main narrative threads – Evelyn’s search for love, the arrival of Meredith with Evelyn’s young nephew, and the murder trial of Stephen Wheeler - all work seamlessly. This is good quality writing and I will be on the lookout for more of McMahon’s books. This really is a great read.

© Koplowitz 2013
( )
  Ant.Harrison | Apr 28, 2013 |
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Evelyn is a young woman who has defied convention to become one of the country's pioneer female lawyers. Living at home with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Evelyn is still haunted by the death of her younger brother James in the First World War. Therefore, when the doorbell rings late one night and a woman appears claiming to have mothered James's child, Evelyn's world is turned upside down. Evelyn distrusts Meredith at first, but she also finds that this new arrival challenges her work-obsessed lifestyle. So far her legal career has not set the world alight. But then two cases arise that make Evelyn realize that perhaps she can make a difference. The first concerns a woman called Leah Marchant, whose children have been taken away from her simply because she is poor. In the second case, Stephen Wheeler-a former acquaintance of Daniel Breen, her boss-has been charged with murdering his own wife. It is clear to Breen and Evelyn that Wheeler is innocent but he won't talk. After being humiliated in court, Evelyn is approached by the dashing lawyer Nicholas Thorne. She is needled by his privileged background and old-fashioned attitudes, but, despite being engaged, he cannot seem to resist sparring with this feisty young female. In the meantime, Meredith makes an earth-shattering accusation about James. With the Wheeler case coming to a head and her heart in limbo, Evelyn takes matters into her own hands.

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Evelyn is a young woman who has defied convention to become one of the country's pioneer female lawyers. Living at home with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Evelyn is still haunted by the death of her younger brother James in the First World War. Therefore when the doorbell rings late one night and a woman appears, claiming to have mothered James's child, her world is turned upside down. Evelyn distrusts Meredith at first, but also finds that this new arrival challenges her work-obsessed lifestyle. So far her legal career has not set the world alight. But then two cases arise that make Evelyn realise perhaps she can make a difference. The first concerns woman called Leah Marchant whose children have been taken away from her simply because she is poor. The second, Stephen Wheeler - a former acquaintance of Daniel Breen, her boss - has been charged with murdering his own wife. It is clear to Breen and Evelyn that Wheeler is innocent but he won't talk. After being humiliated in court, Evelyn is approached by a dashing lawyer called Nicholas Thorne. She is needled by his privileged background and old-fashioned attitudes, but despite being engaged, he cannot seem to resist sparring with this feisty young female. In the meantime, Meredith makes an earth-shattering accusation about James. With the Wheeler case coming to a head, and her heart in limbo, Evelyn takes matters into her own hands.

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