Friday, February 11, 2022

Is He or Isn't He?

I know, it sounds like that old Clairol commercial, but this isn’t a post about hair dye. Like any fictional genre, murder mysteries have certain plot lines that are just too delicious to resist. One of these, beloved because of its potential for ambiguity (at least in the pre-DNA testing or even pre-fingerprint era), involves the unexpected reappearance of a long-missing heir to a title, a fortune, or both.

Personally, I love this storyline, where the complexity of identity and character and variations over time due to accident or maturity are all on display. But I’ve seldom had more fun with an impostor story than I did with Deanna Raybourn’s latest addition to her Veronica Speedwell mysteries. The opening alone is priceless, and the novel just builds from there.

For more on An Impossible Impostor and the series to which it belongs, read on. But then definitely listen to the interview
, where we talk about a lot more than this particular plot.

The rest of this post comes from New Books in Historical Fiction.

Starting a new historical mystery series is always fun, but summarizing one at book 7 creates a certain conundrum: how to convey the essence of a character and her development without giving away too much information?

Since her first adventure in 1887 (A Curious Beginning, published in 2015), Veronica Speedwell, a lepidopterist by inclination and training, has had an exciting two years. Early in that book, she leaves a family funeral only to encounter a housebreaker and would-be abductor. She evades the villain with help from an unknown rescuer who promises to reveal a decades-old secret but dies before he can fulfill his promise. Veronica is nothing if not intrepid, and she flees London in the company of the unkempt and misanthropic Stoker. Together they attempt to discover who perpetrated the murder and why without falling under suspicion themselves.

By 1889, Veronica and Stoker have tackled more than a few complicated cases. In An Impossible Impostor, the head of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch asks them for help. Jonathan Hathaway supposedly died during the eruption of Krakatoa six years before, but he has returned from the grave—or has he? His putative grandmother identifies him, but other family members disagree. And the family owns a priceless parure that may be the newcomer’s real target. So off Veronica and Stoker go to Hathaway Hall, a gentry estate at the edge of Dartmoor. There another piece of Veronica’s personal history surfaces when least expected, threatening her partnership with Stoker as well as her peace of mind.

Deanna Raybourn has a gift for writing fast-moving, richly imagined, intriguing, and at times flat-out hilarious mysteries filled with well-rounded and opinionated characters at all levels. I can’t wait to find out where she will send Victoria and Stoker next.

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