by Anthony Conty (Parkville, MD): London, 1926. I am not a history guy, but I love that I have many friends who could tell you so much just from those details. “Shrines of Gaiety” by Kate Atkinson tells the story of a life of excess in the British club scene but gets to its point deliberately. You will not know the story for quite some time, so read no blurbs and discover its goal.

My favorite critic is an older British woman, and I agree with her often. Some books seem “too feminine,” “too British,” or “too old.” The book was all three until the story started; it was a prolonged burn, and I was confused after the first quarter. Since it is all set up, I wondered if I was missing anything. I did understand, and that is all there was at that point.

A friend told me she gave books fifty pages to see if she wanted to keep reading. “Shrines of Gaiety” takes about 150 pages. Protagonist Nellie Coker has six kids, and they all have a story. Because no one is an expert on the nightlife of London in the 1920s, Atkinson provides a great deal of background information. It rewards the patient.

You feel guilty waiting for someone to die, but once bullets start flying, the book picks up. You see the potential of wealth to find quick fixes and sweep things under the rug. The line of the book stuck with me: “You cannot make money off of your vices, but you can make money off of the vices of others.” Nellie does just that, but not everyone is what they seem.

I have often compared books to my favorite movies; the last two reminded me of “Forrest Gump” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” This book is like “The Departed,” in which every character has depth and requires a top-notch actor to deliver their message. There are many people to keep track of, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying it.