The Counterfeit Lady is the second in Kate Parker’s delightful Victorian Bookshop Mystery series, in which Georgia Fenchurch, the solidly middle-class proprietress of Fenchurch’s Books, once again becomes involved in murder and mayhem through her somewhat prickly friendship with the dashing Duke of Blackford and her participation in the Archivist Society, a secretive investigation agency.
This time around, a cousin of Georgia’s friend and house mate, Lady Phyllida Monthalf, is murdered, and Phyllida refuses to believe that her cousin’s husband, arrested for the crime, is guilty. As if this weren’t distressing enough, the murder was committed during the theft of the blueprints of a new battleship—designed by the accused husband. Is he a murderer? A traitor? Or an innocent man, as Phyllida believes?
The political repercussions of the theft bring the Duke into the picture, and Georgia unwillingly agrees to his plan to investigate the crime—by posing as a prosperous widow recently returned from Singapore, an old flame of Blackford’s ready to renew their relationship.
Between worrying about leaving her shop in the hands of friends, avoiding anyone who might know her as Georgia or who might be expected to know a widow from Singapore, dealing with an impostor, going off to a country house party, and struggling with her real feelings for the Duke, Georgia is out of her element. But if anyone can cope with the unexpected, it’s Georgia, whether it involves international spies, a stolen hat box, or dealing with snobbish aristocrats.
I love the setting of this series, late Victorian London, where electric lighting is coming into vogue and the Duke has a telephone installed in the shop (with no delay—he’s a director of the telephone company). The viewpoint of a middle class spinster focused on making a living, sure that nothing will ever come of her attraction to a Duke, is refreshing, and the cast of supporting characters is entertaining. I’ll be looking forward to Georgia’s next adventure in investigation—and her next encounter with the Duke.