Murder in Punch Lane

Jane Sullivan

Murder in Punch Lane
Bonnier Echo
2 July 2024

Murder in Punch Lane

Jane Sullivan

Melbourne, 1868.

When dazzling theatre star Marie St Denis dies in the arms of her best friend, fellow actress Lola Sanchez, everyone believes it was suicide by laudanum overdose. Everyone except Lola. On the brink of stardom herself, she risks everything by embarking on a quest to find Marie's killer.

When journalist Magnus Scott, writing as 'the Walking Gentleman', publishes a compassionate obituary about her friend, Lola decides to seek his help. A fraught attraction develops between these two amateur detectives from opposite sides of society, and their volatile relationship soon begins to compromise their investigation.

Lola keeps a secret from Magnus. She traverses the corrupt underbelly of the brash young metropolis just as he does, but disguised as a boy, entering dangerous, forbidden spaces where the lives of the rich and privileged intersect with the city's underclass and outsiders: bohemians, theatre folk, prostitutes, down-and-outs and opium addicts.

Neither are prepared for the truths they will uncover about the powers that rule Melbourne - or the consequences for their own lives. And now they must race to find the murderer before the city destroys them both.


Jane Sullivan, a literary columnist and supporter of Australian writing, has always promoted the work of others. What an extra joy it is to support her latest novel, Murder in Punch Lane, by encouraging you to read it. And for those wanting an extra bonus, reading this enticing novel will ensure that the next time you are enjoying a glass of wine on the footpath in Punch Lane, you will look at this space with fresh eyes. Just over there, a murder happened.

Inspired by real events and people, Murder in Punch Lane is a quick-paced historical crime novel that reveals Melbourne in 1868. Theatre star Marie St Denis dies in the arms of her best friend, actor Lola Sanchez. Is it suicide or murder? Lola, with the help of ‘fancy pants’ journalist Magnus Scott, decides to find out. And the adventure begins. Along the way, of course, there is a growing love story, political tension and a delicious array of characters from Melbourne’s underbelly, including racketeers, mystic mind readers, glamorous actors and charming criminals.

Do be warned though, this novel does more than give you a ride into our past. It is also a deliberation on women’s identity, class, and wealth. Like all good historical novels, the questions it raises about how we lived are as timely today as they ever were. Anyone who loves Kerry Greenwood’s historical detective novels featuring detective Phryne Fisher will rejoice. There is a new heroine in town. If you adore the work of Robyn Annear, settle in. Time to put the kettle on and read throughout the night.

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