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Posts Tagged ‘Gothic thriller’

The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander

Tasha Alexander, author of “The Counterfeit Heiress” seems to have one foot in the Victorian era.  She has a good grasp of the people and places in and around London and Paris during that era, and particularly the world of upper class Victorian women.

When Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband Colin attend a costume ball in London they are surprised to see another guest in a costume that looks much like Emily’s.  Some guests recognize that party-goer as the world-traveling heiress, Estella Lamar.  The next day Emily learns that the woman she saw at the masked ball has been murdered and is not Lamar at all, but a woman who for some unknown reason was impersonating her.  Who killed the impersonator?  Where is Estella Lamar?

This period mystery is set between London and Paris in 1897.  The Hargreaves are asked to solve this double mystery by one of Lamar’s old friends, Cecile du Lac.  The settings in Paris give this mystery a rather Gothic, noir feel for many of the scenes take place in and around a Paris cemetery and the catacombs under the city.  This is also a psychological suspense story because it delves deeply into the mind of a reclusive young heiress and the actions of her apparent captor.  The chapters jump between the investigation into the murder and the disappearance of Lamar, and chapters that set up the story about Lamar, her captivity and her mental state that leads to some surprising twists and turns in the plot.

The Counterfeit Heiress” is an exceptionally well-crafted and complex mystery that will be enjoyed thoroughly by fans of her Lady Emily Mystery series and many other lovers of fiction set in the late Victorian era.

Liz Nichols

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Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

David Morrell has spent the last two or three years immersing himself in all things Victorian London.  The result is a superb fictionalized look at the life of the famous writer, investigator and opium addict, Thomas DeQuincey and a retelling of actual murders along London’s east end Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 and 1854.  The readers get to delve deeply inside DeQuincey’s mind, and that of the killer he is trying to stop.  We get to experience the grimy fog, the dangerous streets, and the deeply divided society of Victorian England through “Murder as a Fine Art.”

I have to say that I found the murders especially heinous and repulsive, but as the killer’s motivations are gradually revealed, the method in the madness of the killer becomes more understandable and logical.  It was, to the killer’s mind, an art form to bludgeon and slit the throats of innocent men, women and children and to leave the bodies arranged very specifically. There is meaning in everything the killer does, and specific MOs to be followed in a specific order.  Once DeQuincey, his daughter, and the two police officers who believed in them came up with the pattern, the killer became fairly obvious.

This Gothic and psychological thriller is written in a style that is reminiscent of 19th century novels.  The style and the voice was specifically chosen to fit the topic.  Not every author could get away with older styles and maintain them so consistently; David Morrell is successful with the use of old fashioned prose.

This work is not for everyone.  As Morrell cautions, those with fundamentalist view and values that do not allow looking so deeply into early drug trafficking will not be able to stomach this book.  Those who enjoy looking at the seamier side of Victorian life will find “Murder as a Fine Art” quite enlightening.

Liz Nichols



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