City of Scoundrels
Counterfeit Lady Mystery #3
By Victoria Thompson
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Elizabeth Miles finds herself in a position no con can help her escape. Her beloved fiancé, Gideon Bates, is awaiting his turn in the draft to fight in the Great War. Elizabeth is finding it hard to think of anything else, but Gideon has thrown himself into his work, preparing wills for soldiers before they ship out. Corporal Tom Preston is part owner of Preston Shoes, a company that is making footwear for the army, so he has a rather large estate. He needs a new will, however, because he has just been secretly married to a woman whom his family would never approve. He wants to make sure she and their unborn child are provided for if he does not return.
When Tom is later reported killed, Elizabeth and Gideon learn that the new will has gone missing after Tom’s bride revealed her identity to his family. Unless the new will is found and validated, the original will, which leaves everything to Tom’s brother, will prevail and the wife and child will get nothing. If Tom’s new bride survives, that is. Some terrible threats have been leveled against her, and Elizabeth and Gideon must figure out a way, legal or not quite, to secure Tom’s fortune for his wife and child while saving her life in the process. (Goodreads)
City of Scoundrels, with its wonderful New York City setting, is full of scoundrels indeed. With World War I still taking the lives of far too many men and the Spanish Flu felling so many in its path, Elizabeth and her lawyer fiancé face danger and a multi-faceted con like never before.
In the fall of 1918, the cutoff age for draft has been raised, and Gideon has prepared himself to serve. While he waits for his turn, he spends much of his days drawing up wills for soldiers before they are deployed. One such soldier Tom Preston, who is rather well off, wants to name his new secret wife and unborn child his heirs. When Rose, Tom’s wife, receives news that he has been killed in action and Tom’s will is stolen, Gideon wants to do all he can to secure her future. Elizabeth and her family full of con men propose a complex scheme to get back at the Preston family.
Author Victoria Thompson does a fantastic job describing New York City in 1918 and providing a strong sense of place. There is so much tension and fear of the War and the flu in the air, and I felt like I was right there in the midst of it all. Part of why I read historical fiction and mysteries is to learn new things, and Thompson weaves facts seamlessly into the story, making them pertinent to the tale and teaching readers along the way. The con that Elizabeth’s father implements is quite convoluted and takes up most of the story. Add the flu and German spies to the mix, and it all leads to a very satisfying, and surprising, ending.
These characters have really grown on me over the three, thus far, books in the series. Elizabeth, with her history as a con, seems quite the opposite and unlikely mate for straight laced Gideon, but they complement each other perfectly. Elizabeth is intelligent, brave, and street smart. Gideon is moral and a grounding force for Elizabeth. Unconventional supporting characters round out the cast, and they are all immensely interesting.
I really enjoyed City of Scoundrels and look forward to watching Elizabeth and Gideon’s future unfold. Highly recommended.