The Counterfeit Heiress: A Lady Emily Mystery

Tasha Alexander. Minotaur, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-02469-5

In Alexander’s puzzling ninth Victorian mystery (after 2013’s Behind the Shattered Glass), Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband, Colin, investigate the stabbing murder of Mary Darby, a middle-aged woman who was posing as reclusive heiress Estella Lamar at a costume ball hosted by the Duke of Devonshire in London. The Hargreaves’ quest for answers takes them to Paris, where their search for Estella becomes much more crucial than finding Mary’s killer. The villain of the piece considers himself a basically decent man who had been overwhelmed by events, but he never feels like more than a shadowy presence. Alternating chapters relating Estella’s story suggest a kidnapping, and more than a hint of mental illness. It helps to be familiar with the works of Dickens, to which there are frequent references, but most of the action seems like much ado about very little. Agent: Anne Hawkins, John Hawkins & Associates. (Oct.)