The Impersonator – A Mystery

ImpersonatorWho doesn’t love a tale of secret identities, impersonators of kings or heiresses, or body-doubles.  Mary Miley in her “First Crime Novel” award winning story, The Impersonator, gives us just that.  It is the tale of a down-and-out vaudeville actress who is approached by an unscrupulous uncle to take on the identity of his niece, the heiress Jessie Carr, who mysteriously disappeared seven years ago.  If actress Leah Randall can convince Jessie Carr’s family that it is she, Jessie, who has returned, she stands to inherit a fortune on her upcoming twenty-first birthday.  Leah/Jessie wins over the family–all but cousin Henry–who is the one who knows Jessie’s true fate.  The tale is told through Leah’s eyes as she likens the challenge to the greatest acting role of her life, but with life-and-death stakes if she fails.  The backdrop of events is early 1920’s Oregon in a world of Prohibition, bootleggers, jazz age costumes, and larger than life stars of vaudeville.  It’s a good tale despite seeing some of the twists and turns coming down the road beforehand, and will keep a reader engaged to the end in order to see if Leah/Jessie pulls it off.  The narrative voice of Leah is fun, if somewhat unbelievable.  The story sometimes drags a bit when the author puts all she’s learned about the era into the mouth of a character for a long exposition on a topic, but it is forgivable.  Miley has done her homework on the vaudeville era of the early ’20’s (but I did catch a few phrases that were not likely used at that time.)  The ending is very dramatic (no spoilers) and reads more like a romantic thriller perhaps, than a murder mystery.  Miley has followed up with a second novel out this year which continues this character’s story called “Silent Murders,” focusing on the silent movie era.

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