Series: Lady Emily #10
Published by Minotaur Books on 10/13/15
Genres: British mystery, Historical Mystery
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
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Also in this series: , The Counterfeit Heiress
Also by this author: , The Counterfeit Heiress
Emily and husband Colin have come to the French Riviera for what should be a joyous occasion - the engagement party of her lifelong friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, and Amity Wells, an American heiress. But the merrymaking is cut short with the shocking death of one of the party in an apparent suicide. Not convinced by the coroner's verdict, Emily must employ all of her investigative skills to discover the truth and avert another tragedy.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
My first introduction to the Lady Emily series was last year’s The Counterfeit Heiress, which I really liked. Since then, I’ve been slowly making my way through the early books. So when I saw The Adventuress come up on the advance-copy website NetGalley, of course I had to request it!
The Adventuress starts out with a bang: Lady Emily and her husband Colin are woken by a hotel manager with the news that their friend Jeremy, the Duke of Bainbridge, has been found dead. Fortunately for the Duke, this turns out to be a case of mistaken identity; instead, the body is that of another member of the party, a Mr. Neville. As you can imagine, this puts a damper on the celebrations – Jeremy and his friends are in Cannes celebrating his engagement to Amity Wells, an American heiress. After Mr. Neville’s death, the group stays on, but not everyone is able to return to their former gaity. Neville’s death is ruled suicide, but Emily has her doubts. . . and several other odd and mysterious events, most of them relatively minor, lend credence to her feeling that something is amiss.
I didn’t find the mystery itself quite as compelling as in the last book, but the characters and setting are very well-drawn, and the contrast between the upper-class English and nouveau-riche American characters is evident without slipping into caricature. And it’s the cast of characters, and their interactions, that really drive this novel. Mrs. Wells is overbearing, while Mr. Wells is paternally fond and protective, but not always polite. Amity pushes the bounds of decorum, playing poker and encouraging Jeremy in his carefree ways – which is, of course, part of her charm in his eyes. The relationship between her and Emily is strained at times, due to Jeremy’s close friendship with Emily. The author does an excellent job of subtly showing Amity’s character, particularly through a series of flashbacks focused on events leading to her engagement. Amity doesn’t seem guilty of anything worse than setting her cap for the Duke and winning his heart. Her brother Augustus, on the other hand, is rather unsettling, even a little disturbing. Colin is his usual charming, protective, and largely supportive self. He’s a little more willing to take Neville’s death at face value than I would have expected, which surprised me; I would have expected him to be more suspicious. Emily’s friends Cecile and Margaret are also on hand to offer sometimes acerbic but unfailingly perceptive observations on the rest of the cast.
The one place where I felt the novel faltered a little is in its climax. It’s exciting and dramatic, but it breaks with classic murder mystery tradition because Lady Emily doesn’t actually solve the crime. It’s not until she sees the villain literally in the act that she realizes who is behind both Neville’s death and the strange occurrences that have plagued the party. In retrospect, the villain’s identity was rather obvious, but I admit that I myself wasn’t at all sure until that moment, so I suppose I can’t blame Emily for not catching on. She proves most intrepid in dealing with the situation, though, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that justice prevails in the end.
I highly recommend this whole series to those who enjoy historical mysteries. They’re well-written, well-researched, and a lot of fun!