Book review: Karen Odden, A Trace of Deceit

A Trace of Deceit
by Karen Odden

Publication Date: December 17, 2019
William Morrow
Paperback & eBook; 416 pages

Genre: Historical Mystery/Victorian

From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.

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Review

This is such a great book! We’re thrown straight into the mystery, as Annabel arrives at her brother’s flat to find two detectives, who deliver her the worst news she could imagine. Yes, the siblings hadn’t had the easiest of relationships, but Edwin is still her brother…

It can sometimes feel forced when a civilian works with detectives on a case, but Annabel truly does have useful skills to the investigation, and I enjoyed the relationship between her and Matthew, both getting to know the other as the story progressed, and helping each other through talks of past troubles and the like. Matthew is a likeable character, and well-drawn.

This is an entirely standalone novel, and perfect for lovers of mystery, historical fiction, and the art world – there’s a lot going on – with all aspects wonderfully woven together against a wonderfully-detailed and described background of Victorian London. I always like it when a writer can believably bring fact into their fiction, and here, one part of the plot revolves around a famous fire, which I subsequently went to read about.

Highly recommended!

External Praise for A Trace of Deceit

“Odden’s third effort injects a refreshing level of complexity, both in character development and plotting, into what one typically expects to find in historical cozies. This will appeal to fans of Victorian mysteries, as well as those interested in art history.” -Booklist (starred review)

“Odden keenly evokes the physical as well as cultural milieu of Victorian England, and peoples her setting with fully realized and intriguing characters. This book will delight readers who like their mysteries cloaked in well-researched history.” -Publishers Weekly

“…this thrilling, action-packed story [is] an absolute delight to read.” -Historical Novel Society

“Odden’s literary brushstrokes vividly portray the misogyny and gender bias experienced by women in Victorian society, especially a woman battling to exercise her artistic talent. ” -Washington Independent Review of Books

“Fans of Anne Perry, Deanna Rayborn, and Tasha Alexander will root for Karen Odden’s newest heroine, Annabel Rowe—aspiring painter and now amateur sleuth—investigating the murder of her art forger brother. The novel’s a delightful mix of mystery, history, and romance, served with a delicious helping of lush period detail, while chemistry between Annabel and the investigating Scotland Yard detective add spice to the adventure.” -Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“A darkly thrilling story filled with suspense and secrets, a courageous heroine, an edgy climax, and an atmospheric setting that perfectly captures the underbelly of London’s art world in the Victorian era. A Trace of Deceit is an absolute winner!” -Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar Award winning author

About the Author

Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 7
Review at Books and Backroads
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, September 8
Feature at I’m All About Books

Wednesday, September 9
Review at Hallie Reads

Thursday, September 10
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, September 11
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, September 14
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, September 15
Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, September 16
Review at Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, September 17
Review at Novels Alive

Friday, September 18
Review at A Darn Good Read

Saturday, September 19
Review at Nursebookie

Monday, September 21
Review at Books and Zebras

Tuesday, September 22
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 24
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Friday, September 25
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, September 28
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Tuesday, September 29
Review at Impressions In Ink
Review at Writing the Renaissance

Wednesday, September 30
Review at Probably at the Library
Guest Post at Writing the Renaissance

Thursday, October 1
Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, October 2
Review at Jessica Belmont
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one paperback copy of A Trace of Deceit! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

A Trace of Deceit
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