Sunday 4 August 2013

Book ~ "The Impersonator" (2013) Mary Miley

From Goodreads ~ 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.

It's 1917 and Leah is a performer in vaudeville ... she was orphaned as a child when her mother died and performing is all she knows.  But she's 25 years old and jobs are hard to come by.  Oliver approaches her after a show, convinced that she is his long lost niece, Jessie.  When he discovers that she isn't Jessie, he convinces her to impersonate Jessie. who would have turned 21 soon and inherited the family fortune.

With no other options, Leah agrees and Oliver grooms her to be Jessie.  She becomes Jessie and moves in with Jessie's family until it's Jessie's 21st birthday and Leah and Oliver will then split the money.  It sounded like a great plan until she suspects that one of her "cousins" wants to kill her so they can inherit the money.  Plus since she has taken over Jessie's life, she needs to find out what really happened to her.

This is the first book I've read by this author.  I don't usually like period pieces and I enjoyed it.  It was fun to read a book set way before the Internet ... no DNA testing to prove whether Leah is Jessie, just investigators interviewing people to confirm the story.  Women just got to vote and not many drive cars.

I liked the writing style ... it was well-paced and flowed well.  It's written in first person, from Leah's point of view.  So we know Leah's desperation in having no other options but also her guilt and turmoil in taking on the role.  I liked that we don't know right away what happened to Jessie ... was she killed or did she run away because she was so unhappy?

I liked the characters, especially Grandmother.  She was proper (given the times), cared about Jessie/Leah and looked out for her.

I would recommend this book.

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