Friday, October 2, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway - A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

My Review

A Trace of Deceit is a historical novel set in Victorian England. Annabel Rowe is shocked when her brother is discovered murdered in his flat.  Like Annabel, her brother Edwin was an artist;  while she is studying in a formal setting, he worked as an art restorer.  A famous Boucher painting Edwin was cleaning, in preparation for sale at an auction house, is also discovered missing. Curiously, the painting supposedly burned in a fire years ago. Annabel works with Scotland Yard policeman Matthew Hallam to solve the mystery of her brother's death and also find the missing painting.

I wanted to read this novel because I love historical mysteries, Victorian settings, and art history inspired fiction.

This book is the second in Karen Odden's Victorian Mystery series, but it reads well as a standalone.  (Having said this, I do want to go back now and read the first mystery in the series.)

This is an unusual and exceptional novel.  It is a mystery that reads like literary fiction with evocative period details, nuanced characters, and beautiful descriptions. An example of the storytelling follows, when Matthew talks about memory as "a trace of deceit:"

“I think all our memories have a trace of deceit in them,” Matthew said, his expression sympathetic. “Our recollection is a flawed, imperfect thing, unstable and prone to suggestion. I see it all the time when we ask people for evidence. Despite their best intentions, they report things that can’t possibly be true—such as a train arriving at a particular time when official records show it was two hours delayed. Or they’ll say something happened at a particular intersection of streets—when those streets don’t ever meet. Or they change their stories because they wish the truth were different, or because they remember new things, or because they read an account in the newspaper.” He shrugged. “Memory is the exact opposite of a painting or a photograph, I suppose. It’s just the nature of it.” (p. 216).

I found Annabel and Edwin's story interesting, and I also was invested in Annabel's friendship-turned-romance with Matthew.  I especially found the art history mystery in this story fascinating, as the mystery of the Boucher painting has layer upon layer of detail.

As a testament to how much I loved this book -- I am a great bookworm and typically finish a novel and pick another up. I could not do that with A Trace of Deceit. I needed to take a bit of a break before reading again because I wondered if the next read would live up to this one.

I highly recommend A Trace of Deceit for fans of historical fiction, mystery readers, and anyone who enjoys art history.  It is a beautifully told novel;  you will be immersed in Victorian England and actually learn about art and auction houses during this time period through this novel.

Book Synopsis

From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

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.

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Author Bio

Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.

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During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one paperback copy of A Trace of Deceit! 

To enter, please use the Gleam form below. The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. 

A Trace of Deceit


1 comment:

Passages to the Past said...

Wooo Hooo! I'm thrilled that you loved A Trace of Deceit! Thank you for your wonderful review!

HF Virtual Book Tours