Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Friday, December 16, 2011

And Only to Deceive, by Tasha Alexander ($13.95) (c2005)

Portland author Bill Cameron has been telling me for years (years!) to read Tasha Alexander. I'm not a vociferous historical mystery reader, so I generally need all the hints I can get. But still, it took me a while before I picked up this first book in her series.

And I'm glad I did. It was a proper little Victorian mystery.

Emily, widow of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, is young, rich, and nearing the end of her two-year period of mourning. Her husband succumbed to an illness while on a hunt for an elephant in Africa. But don't cry for her, Argentina. She didn't love him anyway and the austerity of mourning chafes her. She married Philip to get away from her nagging, interfering mother. 

But surprise of surprises, Emily finds herself getting to know her husband, posthumously, through his journals and falling in love with him. She finds that he was a patron of the British Museum, a smart and educated world traveler, and someone who loved her deeply. Oh, dear.

Then Emily discovers that someone had been stealing artifacts from the museum and replacing them with excellent copies. It appears that that someone was her husband. And maybe he's not dead after all. 

Helped or hindered by a couple of hopeful suitors, giddy aristocratic girlfriends, and a wise and eccentric Frenchwoman, Emily prepares to both find her husband and solve the mystery of the missing artifacts.

What I enjoyed most of all was Alexander's light touch. Some authors create a character more suitable for contemporary times rather than the conservative and repressive society of Victorian times. Alexander allows Emily to be progressive but within self-imposed bounds. Emily explores and expands bit by little bit. She worries that the husband she now loves will be appalled by her independence. 

All the characters, good and bad, fictional and real (e.g., Renoir), male and female, make you want to turn the page and read more.

P.S. Tasha Alexander's series is not just for the female of the species. Ask Bill Cameron!

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