Review – Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.

Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.

The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .

But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.


I admit I was drawn to Dangerous Women by Hope Adams by the stunning cover, as much a work of art as any painting hanging in an art gallery in my very humble opinion. Often what draws me to pick up a book while a wonder around a bookshop, is the cover, because they are, I believe a window by which we can glimpse the soul of the story! When I saw the cover of Hope Adams novel about a group of women being transported to Australia on the Rajah, it called to me. It whispered this novel is one you are going to love and it was right, I thought it was extraordinary.

The rough seas that the ship is sailing across suggest a dramatic murder mystery, which it is, but best of all it’s a character driven tale in which the lives of the women and the terrible things they were forced to do to survive are revealed to us slowly. Drama doesn’t always have to be shouty, sometimes it is quiet and clever, as Dangerous Women is! From the moment I walked onto the Rajah with women like Hattie, forced to steal to provide for herself and her son, or Kezia privileged and seeking to turn them towards a better life, I instantly felt drawn not just to the cover, but the women. To a story about the terrible decisions that led them to this fateful voyage and the possibilities it offers them for redemption, if only they can survive to reach Van Diemen’s Land.

For me the writer gets the balance between story and character right, because in order to become invested in the outcome of the novel, we have to care about the women themselves. They, as much as us, need to take the journey together! If they were simply portrayed as one dimensional, thief, prostitute, malefactor, or on the opposite spectrum altruistic, we would simply be skimming over the surface of their lives and as a result, the story itself. Once that connection is made, the drama flows from our relationship with them. Hope Adams has created a group of women who develop and reveal their deepest secrets, the tragedy of their pasts and as they bond, as we get to know them, the tension builds in increments, because we care, because the writer has crafted a sisterhood from a disparate group of women. The reality of their perilous situation is laid bare to us and I found myself helplessly and happily lost in this tale of murder, friendship and a desire to survive and flourish.

I can’t recommend this book enough, It is on the surface a murder mystery, the reason I loved it so much, is because it is so much more. It is captivating, yet dark, with a mystery at its core, that thrilled and left me waiting to see what this writer will produce next.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones. But why not order it from your favourite Indie Bookshop?

About the author

Hope Adams was born in Jerusalem and spent her early childhood in many different countries, including Nigeria and British Norht Borneo. She now lives near Cambridge. She has written books for children and adults as Adèle Geras.

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