Thursday, January 08, 2015

Review: Behind the Shattered Glass


Tasha Alexander

Behind the Shattered Glass

By Tasha Alexander
Minotaur Books, July 2014

About the Book

Anglemore Park is the ancestral home of Lady Emily Hargreave’s husband Colin. But the stately calm of country life is destroyed when their neighbor, the Marquess of Montagu, bursts through the French doors from the garden and falls down dead in front of the shocked gathering.

But who has a motive for murdering the young aristocrat? The lovely cousin who was threatened by his engagement, the Oxford friend he falsely accused of cheating, the scheming vicar’s daughter he shamelessly seduced or the relative no one knew existed who appears to claim the Montagu title? Who is the mysterious woman seen walking with him moments before he was brutally attacked?

The trail takes readers into the gilded world of a British manor house and below stairs to the servants who know all the secrets. One family’s hidden past and a forbidden passion are the clues to a puzzle only Lady Emily can solve.

My Review

I have a confession to make. I’ve side stepped Ms. Alexander’s books up until now. Many friends have recommended them, and I’ve always passed. As someone who prefers fast-paced thrillers, I presumed the Lady Emily mysteries were on the tame side for me. Until I picked up the audio version of this one . . . and was completely hooked!

Now I will say that my initial impressions weren’t wrong. This is much more Agatha Christie than James Patterson, much more cozy and charming than riveting. Nail-biting suspense, this is not. When authors spend several lines describing a room or a gown (unless it’s the great Jane Austen), my mind usually wanders. But I admit that Ms. Alexander has converted me. I have a new guilty pleasure.

In this edition of the series, Lady Emily and her husband Colin are charged with tracking down the murderer of their neighbor Archibald Scofield, Lord Montagu. It appears Lord Montagu was something of a rogue as his grandfather left most of his estate to a granddaughter rather than the heir, and many young ladies have scandalous tales to tell involving the deceased. Despite the ever-growing list of suspects, Lady Emily persists to track down the true killer in a story that is reminiscent of Downton Abbey with its scandalous tales of the nobility and the ensuing fallout that impacts those below stairs as well.

The usual cast of suspects in a cozy British mystery are here (the vile, long-lost, and inconvenient cousin; the wronged vicar’s daughter; the run away girl; the maligned school chum), sprinkled in between Lady Emily’s sparkling wit, candid opinions, and piercing questioning. The crimes themselves aren’t earth shattering. What is spectacular is how Ms. Alexander fully immerses us in this colorful Victorian world. The characters are so richly drawn and the surroundings so vivid, you feel like a fly on the wall of Anglemore Park. Rarely have I felt more present, as if I were another character in the novel. No matter how inconsequential the troubles of the nobility may seem, the characters seem so lifelike that they keep you glued to the pages. Prim and proper with a good dose of understated humor, Lady Emily proves irresistible as the story gathers steam.

This is Book 8 in the series, with Book 9 (The Counterfeit Heiress) just released this past October. But at no time do you feel out of the loop when you jump into the middle of the series. Just enough background is revealed throughout to keep the reader involved regardless of when you joined the tale.

Lesson learned. Sometimes you feel like a harrowing thriller and sometimes you don’t. When you are in the holiday spirit, looking for that roaring fire and cup of tea, grab one of the Lady Emily mysteries to strike the right mood. Jump back into a different world, escape, and indulge. This is the best kind of cozy British mystery, the guilty pleasure you won’t be ashamed to acknowledge.

Rebecca Henderson Palmer, www.rhendersonpalmer.com

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