Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Impersonator by Mary Miley

In 1917, Jessie Carr, fourteen years old and sole heiress to her family’s vast fortune, disappeared without a trace. Now, years later, her uncle Oliver Beckett thinks he’s found her: a young actress in a vaudeville playhouse is a dead ringer for his missing niece. But when Oliver confronts the girl, he learns he’s wrong. Orphaned young, Leah’s been acting since she was a toddler.

Oliver, never one to miss an opportunity, makes a proposition—with his coaching, Leah can impersonate Jessie, claim the fortune, and split it with him. The role of a lifetime, he says. A one-way ticket to Sing Sing, she hears. But when she’s let go from her job, Oliver’s offer looks a lot more appealing. Leah agrees to the con, but secretly promises herself to try and find out what happened to the real Jessie. There’s only one problem: Leah’s act won’t fool the one person who knows the truth about Jessie’s disappearance.

Set against a Prohibition-era backdrop of speakeasies and vaudeville houses, Mary Miley’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition winner The Impersonator will delight readers with its elaborate mystery and lively prose.

My Thoughts:

I picked up a copy of this book at my favorite local bookstore (Chop Suey Books, for you RVA folks, is an awesome bookstore!) solely because the author is a fellow Richmonder. 

Leah takes on this role and dissolves herself into the life and persona of Jessie Carr, not knowing that it could potentially cost her life.  She is made to play a role 24/7 for the length of time necessary to convince any family/friends that she is truly Jessamyn Becket Carr.  Due to that, in my opinion at least, she becomes quite the pessimist.  She takes on a side-role of investigator and won't stop until she gets the justice she is seeking.  (I just want to know how Leah knew about the thumb thing in the glass floats!)

Oliver, the greedy uncle, wants nothing but the fortune and has his ways of making sure that Leah doesn’t leave him high and dry if the tables turn.  I just can’t get over his greed and lack of concern over the true fate of his poor niece.

Ross is a character that I liked from the get-go and just couldn’t bring myself to believe he was a bad guy.  He is the cousin of Jessie and brother of Henry and the twins, Valerie and Caroline.  He has a genuine interest in the well-being of the Native Americans that reside in the area.  He seems to be a truly good person.

Henry is just a scum bag.  I won’t go into detail as it’s better for you to find out on your own when you read the book.  Suffice it to say, he wants to be a politician, but has some skeletons in his closet that he will do pretty much anything to keep hidden.

Valerie and Caroline are the sheltered, bored, and rambunctious twins.  I couldn’t help liking them and feeling sorry for their sheltered life.  They are 16, have no close friends, and feel secluded at the Cliff House.  Leah takes them into Portland for a shopping weekend and introduces them to vaudeville and the facts of life.  Tisk Tisk, Aunt Victoria would not approve... 

Aunt Victoria is the humble, I guess, mother of Henry, Ross, Valerie and Caroline.  She is an oddball so to speak.  I don’t really know what to say about her other than the fact that I was a little confused by her.  Did she hate Leah, did she like her?

David Murray, the illegitimate son of the late Lawrence Carr (the real Jessie’s father).  Mr. Carr sent money for David up until his sudden death when David was only 16.  I was a little put off by David at the end due to the odd relationship twist.  Overall, he is a good guy, sort of.  I guess that depends on your stance with the law.

In summary:  How fun!  The end was a little different than I envisioned while reading, but I really enjoyed reading this.  I’m a sucker for a murder mystery and anything dealing with the Roaring 20’s!  This was an easy, fun read with some good plot twists to boot.  It is very true to the times.  The details of the actors (Jack Benny!!), vaudeville, bootlegging, and life in those times were spot on.  Though, you shouldn't expect less in that regard from Mary Miley.  She worked at Colonial Williamsburg (worth the visit, if you are in the area) and has taught American History at Virginia Commonwealth University for 13 years.  I’d say she’s well versed in that topic.  I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Silent Murders (recently released, if you're interested).

Sexual Content: Mild/Moderate - allusions to and discussions of, no scenes
Language: Moderate - *racial slurs are used, as they were in the 20's*
Violence: Moderate/Heavy - it is a mystery dealing with murder(s)
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild/Moderate - bootlegging, need I say more?

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