Monday, March 7, 2016

A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

From the publisher: Karen Odden’s enthralling debut historical mystery transports readers to Victorian England, where a terrifying railway disaster plunges a headstrong young noblewoman into a conspiracy that reaches to the highest corridors of power. Lady Elizabeth Fraser is on her way back to her ancestral country estate when her train careens off the rails and bursts into flames. Though she is injured, she manages to drag herself and her unconscious mother out of the wreckage, and amid the chaos that ensues, a brilliant young railway surgeon saves her mother’s life. Elizabeth feels an immediate connection with Paul Wilcox—though society would never deem a medical man eligible for the daughter of an earl. 

A Lady in the Smoke: A Victorian Mystery by Karen Odden could be the first in a new series by Anne Perry. A Victorian era woman of gentle birth feels a mutual attraction with a professional man - in this case a railway surgeon - while investigating a crime. It is told in the first person, but otherwise has a very similar feel to Perry’s The Cater Street Hangman. The trial of someone unjustly accused of murder as part of a conspiracy reminded me of Perry’s William Monk series as well. From page 291 of the advance reader copy: “Paul’s trial had been so very important to all of us, but his was only one of dozens that would take place during these two weeks. All these people’s lives, I thought as I looked about me, dependent upon a few words here and there, the momentary inclination of a judge, the presence or absence of a particular witness.”

The main character is a determined and strong woman. She puts herself in some situations that stretch believability, but that’s typical for mysteries. She and the surgeon fall in love quickly, but that’s typical for romance novels. The book seems very well researched. Although the author admits to taking “liberties” with Victorian England, the historical details rang true. 

A Lady in the Smoke is more mystery than romance, but the resolution of both threads was satisfying for this fan. I enjoyed having the railway be a prominent plot point, especially as I read the book while travelling by train. I found the writing style lively and engaging and was thoroughly engrossed. 

For now, this book is only available as an ebook. I hope it is made available in print as well. I believe it will find many fans among readers of historical mysteries. I read a digital advance reader copy. The book will be available for purchase on March 29. It will be available as an ebook through the Galesburg Public Library.

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