City of Schemes (A Counterfeit Lady Novel)

Written by Victoria Thompson
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In post-WWI New York, Elizabeth Miles, a former con artist, is preparing to marry Gideon, a respectable lawyer. Elizabeth, wishing to have a discreet wedding, is worried when she notices their marriage announcement published in a newspaper. This was orchestrated by Rosemary, the scheming fiancée of Gideon’s friend Logan, who had recently returned from war. Elizabeth had previously been involved in a con on a dangerous man, Oscar, which had prevented him from profiteering by supplying defective rifles to the army. Oscar believed that Elizabeth had died, but the news of her wedding informs him otherwise. He sets about blackmailing Elizabeth for the money he’d lost, threatening to expose her past to New York’s elite society. Logan receives a letter through his sergeant, supposedly from Noelle, a girl he’d left behind in France. Noelle asks for a large sum of money to travel to America. Elizabeth immediately recognizes this as a typical “Spanish Prisoner” scam. She figures out ingenious ways to help Logan, thwart Oscar, and save her marriage.

Victoria Thompson has penned another delightful novel. While it’s the fourth in her A Counterfeit Lady series, it’s virtually a stand-alone story. What makes it appealing is that Elizabeth runs cons to rectify wrongs by other criminals and scammers. She thereby helps her friends, and herself, for the sake of justice rather than financial gain. The post-WWI epoch in New York is interestingly woven into the plot. The period’s social norms and the critical role the gossip columnists played in affecting people’s lives are subtly portrayed. Apart from the main characters, the secondary cast, such as Elizabeth’s father, called the Old Man, is equally fascinating. While the cons require much suspension of disbelief, they don’t include unnecessary violence or bloodshed. The book will be an interesting read during long winter evenings.