City of Secrets (A Counterfeit Lady Novel Book 2)

Written by Victoria Thompson
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In a New York church in the 1920s, Elizabeth Miles, a reformed grifter, lingers after the service to meet some of society’s leading suffragettes. While she’s pleased to see the way Gideon, a prominent lawyer, is looking at her, she’s delighted when his mother walks over and greets her. Elizabeth then meets the wealthy, twice-widowed Priscilla Knight, a woman grieving for her husband, Endicott, who died under mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth learns that it was the crooked pastor and his wife who’d encouraged Priscilla to marry Endicott. But Elizabeth is alarmed when Priscilla tells her that she’s destitute, along with her two children, since all her money has mysteriously disappeared from the bank. While rummaging through Endicott’s papers, the two women discover a shocking photograph of Endicott in déshabillé with another woman, and payments made to someone who is obviously a blackmailer. While Gideon conscientiously advises a legal route to recover Priscilla’s money, Elizabeth devises a scheme to con the blackmailers, despite the risk of exposing her past.

Victoria Thompson has concocted a delightful romantic mystery based on the morals and behavior of pre-WWII New York’s high society, somewhat like the novels of Edith Wharton or Henry James. This story includes details on the 1920s, such as the suffragist movement and rules of etiquette, which Elizabeth frequently refers to from Edith Ordway’s The Etiquette of Today. There is also some interesting background on the origins of safety deposit boxes in banks. The sophisticated dialogue between the ladies, and particularly the discussions between Elizabeth and Gideon on legal and ethical matters, are a delight to read. Although it seems Elizabeth is well ahead of her time, when women had few rights, her fight for her and others’ entitlements (even resorting to grifting) is well presented.