A semireformed con artist slowly learns society’s rules in a world even more corrupt than she is.
Years after Elizabeth Miles and her half brother learned the art of grifting from their father, a stint in jail with several society suffragettes sets her life on a new course. Because Gideon Bates is in love with Elizabeth, his mother, a prominent suffragette, is making a push to introduce her into New York society. When Elizabeth befriends a woman named Priscilla Knight, who’s recently been widowed for the second time, she's put on a collision course with Gideon, a lawyer who’s honest to a fault. The rumor is that Priscilla remarried quickly after her first husband died because she and her two young daughters had been left penniless. Priscilla tells Elizabeth and Mrs. Bates that her first husband actually left her well off and that her pastor, the Rev. Peter Honesdale, and his wife, Daisy, pushed her into marrying her second husband, Endicott Knight, whose sudden death has left her impoverished. In going through Knight’s papers, Elizabeth discovers that he’d been making payments to someone who’s depleted both his and Priscilla’s fortunes. A scandalous photograph of him with another woman hints that the money all went for blackmail. Although she consults Gideon for advice, they both realize that the blackmailer is unlikely to be punished, since the corrupt police would be bribed to look the other way. While Gideon looks for some legal means to solve the problem, Elizabeth goes to her father for advice, certain that the only way to get Priscilla’s money back is to run a con on the people who stole it. Elizabeth and Gideon fall out over the illegal plan, but Gideon is still drawn into it while he researches the suspicious deaths of both of Priscilla’s husbands.
A far cry from the average mystery, the fast-moving second novel in Thompson's (City of Lies, 2017, etc.) Counterfeit Lady series features a bold and clever sleuth, abundant historical detail, and a rocky romance.