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A Trace of Deceit: A Novel, by Karen Odden. 

November 17, 2019

A Better Man
A Trace of Deceit: A Novel, by Karen Odden.  HarperCollins, 2019.

 Forthcoming: December 17, 2019

4 stars

An engaging mystery set in the art world of London in the 1870s and centering on a young woman who becomes involved in the search for the murderer of her estranged brother.

Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. at New York University writing her dissertation on Victorian England.  She explored how the depiction of nineteenth-century railroad disasters contributed to early conceptualizations of trauma.  She has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, New York University and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.  Her articles have appeared in books and journals focusing on Victorian life.  Before earning her Ph.D., Odden worked in the publishing industry.

Annabel was determined to help discover who killed her artist brother, a troubled young artist who was alienated from his family.  His death is complicated by valuable painting stolen from his apartment.  Alongside an inspector from Scotland yards, she searches out people from his past and comes to better understand him and herself.

A Trace of Deceit is a fine novel, rich in its depiction of its characters and their emotions.  Appropriately, it is also a very visual book, with individuals and landscapes drawn in sharp clear images.  Yet descriptions never weigh down the book which moves quickly through the puzzles of detecting.  Like all good historical fiction, Odden presents excellent historical research into which fictional appropriate imaginary characters are inserted.  This is also a humane mystery, full of good people reacting to shocking events.  As the characters grow and changes, forgiveness becomes possible.

For me, this is my favorite kind of mystery, one that focuses on people and how they behave.  It is deeper and more compelling than many cozy mysteries, but not full of death and destruction.

I recommend A Trace of Deceit to all readers who enjoy a good novel, whether or not they typically like mysteries.

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