Title: A Lady in the Smoke
Author: Karen Odden
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Karen Odden’s enthralling debut historical mystery transports readers to Victorian England, where a terrifying railway disaster plunges a headstrong young noblewoman into a conspiracy that reaches to the highest corridors of power.
Following a humiliating fourth Season in London, Lady Elizabeth Fraser is on her way back to her ancestral country estate when her train careens off the rails and bursts into flames. Though she is injured, she manages to drag herself and her unconscious mother out of the wreckage, and amid the chaos that ensues, a brilliant young railway surgeon saves her mother’s life. Elizabeth feels an immediate connection with Paul Wilcox—though society would never deem a medical man eligible for the daughter of an earl.
After Paul reveals that the train wreck was no accident, and the inspector who tried to prevent it dies under mysterious circumstances, Elizabeth undertakes a dangerous investigation of her own that leads back to her family’s buried secrets. The more she learns, the more she must risk. Not only are her dowry and her reputation at stake; Paul’s very life hangs in the balance when he is arrested for manslaughter. As the trial draws near, and Parliament prepares for a vote that will change the course of the nation, Elizabeth uncovers a conspiracy that has been years in the making. But time is running out for her to see justice done.
Lady Elizabeth and her mother are traveling by train back to their estate from London when the train careens off its tracks. Elizabeth wakes up to her mother unconscious with a broken ankle and Elizabeth herself has a gash on her forehead. They somehow make it off the train and a gentleman doctor helps them by the name of Paul Wilcox.
Over the next few days, while her mother is recovering, she helps the young doctor who saved her and her mother’s life. There’s an immediate attraction between the two even though they come from different social circles. Elizabeth doesn’t tell Paul her title because she enjoys being treated like a normal woman and she knows Paul will withdraw if he found out. But like everything in Victorian England, the truth eventually comes out.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth discovers the train accident she endured was on purpose. In fact, there’s quite a few train derailments and it’s politically driven. The more Elizabeth and her new-found acquaintance reporter (a friend of Paul’s) unearth, the more long-buried family secrets emerge. When Paul is arrested for manslaughter, Elizabeth must risk her reputation and life as she knows it to save the man she loves.
I loved this mystery! It’s filled with suspense, twists and turns, not to mention a sweet romance between Paul and Elizabeth. I love trains and the Victorian age. Karen Odden draws you into Elizabeth’s world. The supporting cast of characters add such richness to this story and the mystery held my mind captive. Who is behind the railroad sabotage and murders? The courtroom scenes left me breathless and the ending was satisfying.
If you like historical fiction, especially Victorian, with dashes of mystery and romance, this book is for you! I look forward to more from Karen Odden.
Thank you to Random House Publishing Group – Alibi and Netgalley for giving me a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 5 stars
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Karen Odden’s interest in the Victorian era and specifically railway crashes goes back to her New York University doctoral dissertation, which explored how the medical, parliamentary, and literary representations of railway disasters helped to create a discourse out of which Freud and others fashioned their ideas of “trauma.”
Karen has served as an Associate Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught classes in English language and literature at New York University and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; and she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble’s Classics Series editions of books by Dickens and Trollope. Prior to receiving her Ph.D. in English, she worked as an Editorial Assistant at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and McGraw-Hill, as a Media Buyer for Christie’s Auction House in New York, and as a bartender at the airport in Rochester, where she learned how to stop being shy. She is a member of SCBWI and Mystery Writers of America; and she currently serves as an Assistant Editor for the academic journal, Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP).
Karen currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, her two children, and her ridiculously cute beagle, Rosy.
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Reviewed by: Mrs. N