cover image The Counterfeit Guest

The Counterfeit Guest

Rose Melikan, . . Touchstone, $15 (412pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-6087-6

Set in England in 1796, Melikan’s sprightly sequel to The Blackstone Key (2008) finds Mary Finch, once a poor teacher, now a wealthy heiress. At a ball given in London by Mary’s friend Susannah and Susannah’s new husband, Colonel Crosby-Nash, Mary witnesses Crosby-Nash meeting with a disguised stranger. Mysterious espionage expert Cuthbert Shy guesses that Crosby-Nash is involved in sedition and encourages Mary to travel with the couple to their Kent estate to gather more information. Mary’s researches are aided, yet also complicated, by Capt. Robert Holland, an artillery officer whose headquarters in Woolwich is one of the plotters’ targets—and whose romance with Mary is stymied by her new fortune. Overdoses of conversation and coincidence weaken the middle chapters, but the novel’s confident voice, quirky characters and sparkling period detail should keep fans of light historical thrillers turning the pages. (Aug.)