Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Book Author: Mary Miley

THE IMPERSONATOR by Mary Miley: Book Review

A young vaudevillian in the 1920s, Leah Randall is approached by an elegantly dressed man whom she has seen in the theater audience for the past few days.  He has a proposition for her, but not the type she’s used to.  Something more interesting, more lucrative, and ultimately more dangerous.

Oliver Beckett’s niece, Jessie Carr, disappeared nearly seven years earlier.  According to Oliver, Leah’s resemblance to Jessie is astonishing.  Same red hair, same freckles, same eyes.  The two could have been twins.

Leah’s mother died several years ago, and her father had left the scene before Leah was born.  Jessie, too, had been an orphan, her parents dying in a sailing accident when she was eleven.  But those were the only similarities amidst many differences.  Leah is alone in the world, but Jessie had a grandmother, her uncle Oliver, an aunt, and four cousins.  She also had, or would have had, an inheritance of approximately ten million dollars had she reached her twenty-first birthday, now only a few months away.

Oliver Beckett’s plan is for Leah to impersonate his niece until she comes into Jessie’s inheritance.  She will then give him an unspecified portion of the money and keep the rest for herself.

Jessie’s body has never been found, so it’s not known if she was kidnapped, ran away from the unhappy home she shared with her aunt and cousins, or died an unknown death at some point after her disappearance.  What is known is that if she doesn’t appear by her birthday, the entire inheritance goes to the Carr family, all of whom have been anticipating this windfall for nearly seven years.  To say they won’t be pleased if Jessie, or Leah/Jessie, returns is an understatement.

Leah refuses the offer initially, but a few days later the “parents” of the group she has been touring with announce their intention to disband, and Leah is out of job.  After several weeks of fruitless searching for a place in another vaudeville act, she comes across Oliver’s business card.  Jobless, desperate, and intrigued by his offer, Leah contacts Oliver and prepares to become Jessie Carr.  She will have to fool not only the Carr family but the lawyers who have been in charge of Jessie’s money until now.

Mary Miley has written a wonderful mystery.  Not only is there a compelling story line, but the characters are so vivid that it’s as if they truly exist.  Leah, the unscrupulous Uncle Oliver, the adult cousins Henry and Ross–they all jump off the pages of The Impersonator.  The section of the novel portraying Leah’s life in vaudeville is fascinating, and there’s a “bit part” for Leah’s vaudeville friend, Benjamin Kubelsky, aka Jack Benny.

From start to finish, The Impersonator is a terrific read.  No wonder it won the 2014 Minotaur Book/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.  Be sure to follow this novel up with Silent Murders, the second in the series.

You can read more about Mary Miley at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.