In a mystery set during the Roaring ’20s, an actress takes on the role of a lifetime—if someone doesn’t kill her first.
Actress Leah Randall has been on the stage for so long that she no longer has a fixed name. Now Leah has an offer of another name: Jessamyn Carr. Seven years after Jessie disappeared from her home in Dexter, Ore., her uncle Oliver Beckett proposes that Leah impersonate her and divert part of Jessie’s considerable inheritance to him. When Leah agrees, she leaves the vaudevillian world of kiddie acts and cat circuses for a luxurious life in a seaside Dexter mansion with the Carr family. She finds little welcome, much hostility and murderous intent at Cliff House. As Leah weighs self-preservation against a spiritual connection to Jessie, she risks everything to learn the truth about Jessie and herself. Leah is presented as brave, appealing, self-sufficient and smart, but the story depends on her making stupid choices. A late-entry hero, an obligatory house of doom, plot devices like a lucky train ticket and an unlucky bee sting, and a penultimate revelation worthy of Tom Jones also work against plausibility, though not necessarily against enjoyment.
Historian Miley, winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award, presents a colorfully detailed mystery that partially succeeds and a heroine whom readers will want to see succeed even more.