Published by Berkley Genres: Historical Mystery
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Source: the publisher
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Also in this series: A Curious Beginning, An Unexpected Peril
London, 1889. Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian beau Stoker are summoned by Sir Hugo Montgomerie, head of Special Branch. He has a personal request on behalf of his goddaughter, Euphemia Hathaway. After years of traveling the world, her eldest brother, Jonathan, heir to Hathaway Hall, was believed to have been killed in the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa a few years before.
But now a man matching Jonathan's description and carrying his possessions has arrived at Hathaway Hall with no memory of his identity or where he has been. Could this man truly be Jonathan, back from the dead? Or is he a devious impostor, determined to gain ownership over the family's most valuable possessions--a legendary parure of priceless Rajasthani jewels? It's a delicate situation, and Veronica is Sir Hugo's only hope.
Veronica and Stoker agree to go to Hathaway Hall to covertly investigate the mysterious amnesiac. Veronica is soon shocked to find herself face-to-face with a ghost from her past. To help Sir Hugo discover the truth, she must open doors to her own history that she long believed to be shut for good.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
The course of true love never did run smooth
That has certainly been true for Veronica Speedwell and her fellow sleuth and partner Stoker, who finally admitted their feelings for one another at the end of their fifth adventure. So I wasn’t really surprised when a ghost from Veronica’s past turns up, still very much alive, to complicate things once again.
Veronica and Stoker are asked to confirm the identity of a man who appeared at Hathaway House beaten and bloody, unable to remember where he has been or even who he is. Old Lady Hathaway believes him to be her grandson, the eldest son (and heir), Jonathan; the rest of the household is less sure. But Jonathan Hathaway was believed to have died in the explosion of Krakatoa—the same cataclysmic event from which Veronica barely escaped alive. Veronica had been acquainted with Jonathan before the volcano’s eruption, and Sir Hugo Montgomerie, head of Scotland Yard, hopes she can resolve the question of the man’s identity.
But it appears that more is going on at Hathaway House than just the ambiguous return of a long-lost son. Picturesquely situated on Dartmoor, the house is the throes of renovation by the younger son, Charles, and his wife Mary. Meanwhile, Charles’s sister Effie longs to study astronomy, an interest callously ignored by the unimaginative Charles and actively opposed by the conventional and unsympathetic Mary. Strange lights have been seen on the moor, and the family remain at odds over the continued presence of “Jonathan” in their midst. When a priceless Indian diamond is stolen and “Jonathan” disappears, Stoker and Veronica return to London, only find themselves entangled in a situation more complicated and dangerous than either of them had imagined.
Veronica Speedwell is one of my favorite historical mystery heroines. Intelligent, witty, practical, ruthless when necessary but with a soft heart underneath, she is fiercely independent and deliberately, even defiantly, unconventional. She’s not without faults, including a quick temper and a tendency to hold a grudge, but she’s also loyal and protective, particularly when it comes to Stoker. Veronica and Stoker have much in common in terms of their personalities, but Stoker’s temper runs deeper and smolders longer, and while both carry wounds from past experiences, he may be the more deeply wounded of the two. Watching their relationship unfold, and seeing them bring out the best (and occasionally the worst) in each other, has been half the fun of these books. The other half is, of course, the adventures themselves, which always hold my attention and keep me guessing.
I thoroughly enjoyed An Impossible Impostor. The mysteries of Jonathan’s identity and the theft of the diamond are intertwined in unexpected ways, there are several really interesting characters, and there are a number of surprises before everything is resolved. But what really made it compelling for me were the strains the case places on Veronica and Stoker’s relationship, and the ways in which their feelings for and commitment to one another were evident despite (and because of) those strains. Adventure, mystery, danger, and a still-evolving relationship—I can’t wait to read the next installment!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Seasons 2022: Winter