A Lady in the Smoke
By Karen Odden
Penguin Random House, 2016. 411 pages. Mystery
Set in Victorian England, Lady Elizabeth Fraser, the only child of the late Earl of Kellham, and who is said to have a dowry worth £10,000 per anum, is set to return home after a disappointing fourth Season in London. At the ball held the previous evening, Lady Elizabeth was shocked to overhear two ladies discussing the loss of her fortune, but when she confronts her mother, Lady Fraser is enraged and blames Elizabeth for not getting hitched sooner.
The next day, they board a train to return to their ancestral country estate, but a short time later the train careens off the rails and bursts into flames. Lady Elizabeth is thrown forward and hits her head and is knocked unconscious. After coming to, she manages to drag herself and her unconscious mother out of the wreckage but is unable to do more. Amid the chaos, a handsome young railway surgeon arrives, attends to their wounds and gets them moved to a local hotel. Elizabeth feels an immediate connection with Paul Wilcox though society would never accept a match between the daughter of an earl and a medical man. But headstrong Elizabeth refuses to let society’s strictures get in the way of helping him attend to the wounded. While helping, Elizabeth learns that the train wreck was no accident and the inspector who tried to prevent it died under mysterious circumstances.
As Elizabeth begins her own investigation, she discovers that the loss of her fortune may somehow be connected and is soon plunged into a dangerous conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of political power in England.
This is an enjoyable debut novel by Karen Odden about a headstrong young noblewoman unafraid to navigate a man’s world and reach for what she most desires. There is plenty of intrigue like family secrets, political conspiracies, lovers who are kept apart and more. I also enjoyed the historical details especially about the railway system in England. Fans of Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries will likely enjoy this novel as well.