Title: The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander
Lady Emily Mystery Book Nine
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 305 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
After an odd encounter at a grand masquerade ball, Lady Emily becomes embroiled in the murder investigation of one of the guests, a sometime actress trying to pass herself off as the mysterious heiress and world traveler Estella Lamar. Each small discovery, however, leads to more questions. Was the intended victim Miss Lamar or the imposter? And who would want either of them dead?
As Emily and Colin try to make sense of all this, a larger puzzle begins to emerge: No one has actually seen Estella Lamar in years, since her only contact has been through letters and the occasional blurry news photograph. Is she even alive? Emily and Colin’s investigation of this double mystery takes them from London to Paris, where, along with their friend Cécile, they must scour the darkest corners of the city in search of the truth.
Tasha Alexander’s The Counterfeit Heiress by is an absolutely riveting mystery set during the late 1800s. Although it is the ninth installment in the Lady Emily series, it can easily be read as a standalone novel.
The story opens at a masquerade ball celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubliee. A mysterious encounter with a stranger is just the first of the puzzling events experienced by Lady Emily and her close friend Cécile du Lac during the ball. Emily quickly forgets the perplexing meeting when Cécile realizes that the person purporting to be her old friend Estella Lamar is an imposter. Once Cécile realizes no one has actually seen Estella in person for nearly twenty years, she and good friend Jeremy Sheffield head to Paris to investigate further. When the fake Estella is found murdered the next morning, Emily and her husband Colin Hargreaves quickly join Cécile and Jeremy where all four try to discover which woman was actually the killer’s intended victim.
Emily and Colin are a charming couple who are happily married and work very well together throughout the investigation. Emily’s previous experience as an investigator leaves her well-equipped to look into the murder while simultaneously helping Cécile scrutinize the mysterious circumstances surrounding Estella’s lengthy absence. As a trusted agent for the Crown, Colin gains access to information that would be otherwise unavailable and a worrisome picture soon emerges about Estella and the murdered woman who has been identified as Mary Darby, an midwife and would be actress. Is Estella really a world traveling adventurer? Or is there a more sinister reason for her prolonged absence? And most importantly, why would anyone hire Mary to attend the ball in Estella’s place?
Alternating chapters provide fascinating insight into Estella and the events preceding her departure twenty years earlier. A picture of a shy, socially awkward young woman quickly emerges and offers a reasonable explanation for why no one questions her long-lasting journey. As more of her past is revealed, it soon becomes clear she crossed paths with someone who may have something to do with her disappearance, but what exactly his role is, remains unclear.
The Counterfeit Heiress is a fast-paced mystery that is quite compelling. The characters are exceptionally well-developed and engaging. The storyline is very intriguing with enough twists and turns that make it impossible to know for certain what happened to Estella. Tasha Alexander brings the novel to an incredibly exciting conclusion that provides answers for all the lingering questions raised throughout the investigation. An exhilarating installment that is sure to delight old and fans of the Lady Emily mystery series.