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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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Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander

Alexander’s “Death in the Floating City” is part of the Lady Emily Mystery series set in the 1890s with flashback chapters set in 1489.  Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband, Colin, respond immediately to the request of one of Emily’s school rivals, Emma Callum, to come to Venice in order to sleuth out the murderer of her father-in-law.  Emma’s husband, Paolo, has fled under suspicion of having committed the murder.  Emily does not believe her husband could have killed the older man.  Several others are investigated, including a medium who is accused of being Paolo’s lover, and members of another ancient Venetian family that has been the sworn enemy of Paolo’s family since the 15th century.  Paolo’s father had been interested in ending the centuries-old family feud.

The alternating chapters take place in the 15th century in a Romeo and Juliet-like story between a daughter of the Barozzi family (Paolo’s ancestor) and the son who becomes the head of the Vendelino family.  Besina Barozzi is first given in marriage against her will to a local merchant, and later she is divorced and sent to a convent to live out her life.  That does not mean, however, that she never again meets with Nicolo Vendelino, and they manage to share a few letters that are passed down in the families and are later discovered by Emily’s father-in-law, along with a ring Nicolo apparently gave Besina.

This was another of those books I was unable to put down until I found out what happened to Nicolo and Besina and what happened to the Barozzi who was murdered.

Liz Nichols

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