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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Review: Dreamland

Title: Dreamland
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publisher: 16th January 2020 by Endeavour Media
Pages: 386 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.
The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.
But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.
Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.
Extravagant, intoxicating, and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class, and dangerous obsession.
My Thoughts

“Four miles long and a half a mile wide – and anything your heart could desire here on Coney Island, America’s Playground!”

Having read other books by Nancy Bilyeau that focus on Tudor period historical thrillers, I was interested to see what a move in time and place would bring. What she has produced is another stunning historical mystery but this time set in America’s playground, Coney Island. Some inspiration is drawn from the life of Peggy Guggenheim and Dreamland was one of the amusement parks that operated from 1904-1911.

“You keep saying I am needed. They don’t need me. I need to have a purpose. You can’t take that away from me.”

This is a fabulous mystery/thriller with a serial murderer on the loose. There is  some romance but the focus was more on the growth of the fabulous leading lady, Peggy - her longing for freedom away from her controlling rich family. Once again I have nothing but praise for Nancy’s writing as she sweeps you away to the heatwave of Coney Island in the summer of 1911. Her writing is rich in detail and cleverly scripted to immerse you in a classic ‘whodunnit’. Nancy maintains a good level of intrigue throughout and builds the suspense to a satisfying conclusion. There are many characters, each having important roles to play and all are complex and engaging. 

I felt a twinge of fear, that this wasn’t a web of happy coincidences linking us all, but from the start it was an iron chain, dragging us to something dangerous.

Yet there is so much more to this novel: social status - life of the rich and famous versus the working class; gender status and the role of women as Peggy seeks to break those bonds; and, the attitude towards immigrants with the unfolding events in Europe at the time.  Interwoven are rich characters from both sides of the social spectrum and some interesting situations concerning the criminal justice system and corruption. This really makes for a holistic and sophisticated story. 

If you love historical fiction this is a must read on many levels. Personally, I think this is Nancy's best novel yet. The writing is rich and although with the mystery you may have strong suspicions, it is the overall variety in themes that make this a real winner and definite page turner. 

“Everything is real on Coney Island–and nothing is real.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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