Minotaur Books, September 2013
1924. Vaudeville acts tour the country. Radio programs have just begun. Coolidge is about to become President. All this is backdrop for an enticing mystery by Mary Miley. Full of historical facts and locales and people, this period piece impressed me, always a bit wary of stories set in the past. But Miley makes it come alive with rich descriptions and stand-out characters.
Leah is a longtime Vaudeville actress whose life is about to change. She looks just like Jesse Carr, a missing heiress from Oregon, and the uncle of the girl has come to offer Leah a deal: come back to Oregon and impersonate the missing girl and share a fortune. When circumstances in the Vaudeville circuit turn against her, Leah accepts the deal. She has a lot of people to convince, though, some of them very unhappy about the return of a family member and the potential loss of a lot of money. The plans to inherit are fraught with problems, dangers, and death. What really happened to Jess seven years earlier? Who knows the truth and what lengths will some people go to secure wealth?
I think what makes period pieces believable is how fact can be mixed with fiction. If done well, you have a superior story. Miley hits the mark with The Impersonator. I thought the set up to the scheme was a bit fast, but I understood that I needed to be intrigued by the murder mystery soon to come. Also being a fan of Jack Benny, I was happy to see him involved in the story, albeit in a minor role. This book won the First Crime Novel award and deservedly so.
Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.