Review copy was received from Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden
Series: Victorian Mystery #2
Published by William Morrow on December 17, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
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Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.
As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.
A young art student, in the process of reconciling with a brother who fell into addiction and crime before beginning the process of recovery, must now face that brother’s murky past and her knowledge of the art world to help a Scotland Yard detective get to the truth. This exploration into the world of Victorian art, the darkness of addiction and its effect on siblings, a young woman finding her way to understanding, and a sweet background romance all made for a profoundly good second visit with an author I have come to appreciate for her painting of the Victorian world and a clever mystery.
A Trace of Deceit was the standalone sequel to A Dangerous Duet. I didn’t read A Dangerous Duet and did just fine since the only connection was Matthew Hallam as the detective who became the love interest in this one.
First of all, I must tattle on myself. I went into this one thinking it was the sequel to an earlier book the author had written, A Lady in the Smoke. As you can imagine, I was somewhat confused at first to not spot the connection to the earlier book or feel there was a connection, but then got it sorted out when I paused in my reading to do a proper investigation. Once I had that established, I was able to slip back into Annabel Rowe’s story.
Annabel is the sister of the victim and my heart went out to her not long after I learned her history with her brother and her struggles to love and help a sibling who withdrew from her into his addictions before getting himself put away for forgery. In fact, she feels guilt when she learns he was murdered and not just in trouble with the police again. She is vulnerable, but also driven to get to the truth of both the murder and the mystery of her brother’s life. When the truth came out about what drove Edwin to drink and drugs, I saw that coming. Fortunately, she is a strong woman and she has Matthew who has been working her brother’s case all along. She was all Victorian and yet, her artistic side and her own personality make her something more.
Speaking of art, art plays a huge role in this book. I enjoy art history and learning more about paintings and artists so this part was intriguing to me. It does occupy a large portion of the book and the pace slows down as the book delves into this element. I didn’t mind and spent time on the internet looking up artists and paintings as I went. I could tell the author did due diligence with this element as well as the wider Victorian era setting. Description, dialogue, and manners were all in line with the historical setting.
As to the mystery, whew, there were several possibilities in the beginning including was the painting her brother Edwin was working on genuine or fake? Was it the auction owner? Was it the owner? Her Step-son? Or others from Edwin’s dark past and nothing to do with the painting at all? I had an idea, but dismissed it. In truth, I was more interested in seeing Annabel discover the truth behind Edwin’s addictions and make her emotional journey through it all. I loved her and Matthew together and working on Edwin’s murder. Now, I want to go back for A Dangerous Duet to see more of Matthew solving his sister’s story.
All in all, I was emotionally attached and engaged with the characters and mystery. I love the author’s writing style and the Victorian world of her mysteries. I can’t wait to pick up more and can easily recommend this one and her others to other historical mystery fans.
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