A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden has been on my list for a while, and I was pleased to see my library had the audiobook version of this Victorian mystery. I will honestly say I can’t believe I waited this long to discover Ms. Odden. Here’s why.
A Lady in the Smoke
Lady Elisabeth Fraser is involved in a horrific train wreck, and this is how she encounters railway surgeon Paul Wilcox. But it’s her mother’s withdrawal from laudanum that really gets the story going.
Secrets and Lies
I love when a main character suddenly realizes their entire life is a lie. There is so much emotional potential there for complicated and twisting plots. That is no exception for Elisabeth. For although there is the surface mystery of the railways and the suspicion that someone is deliberately causing the wrecks and how this may affect Paul’s future, it’s really Elisabeth’s own family secrets that are at the heart of this mystery.
Elisabeth is forced to confront the truth of what she thought was her past only to discover it is far more unsavory than she believed. She must pick apart her parents’ marriage, the family’s relations with friends, and their own place in society. This kind of examining is fraught with tension in a time when a person’s place in society meant everything.
This leads to a layered, nuanced plot, but it’s not the reason this Victorian mystery made my top five favorite books of 2021.
Writing Like Melting Butter
I think of Ms. Odden’s writing like watching butter melt in a pan. It’s smooth, it’s satisfying, and the anticipation of flavor is slaying.
I haven’t read such honestly good writing in a long time, and the simple act of listening to Ms. Odden’s words was an absolute delight. I know my love of Ms. Odden’s writing is likely because I’m a writer myself, but I know this will translate to any reader. How can it not when it’s so terribly delicious?
Who Should Read A Lady in the Smoke
If you like:
- Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series
- True Victorian storytelling along the lines of Mimi Matthews
- Multi-layered mysteries focused on revealing family secrets
- Character-driven fiction
- Beautiful prose
You must read A Lady in the Smoke.
I truly am bummed that I waited so long to read Ms. Odden’s work, but I am happy to say the rest of her books are on my library wish list. My only wish was that this book was part of a series because I just want more of Elisabeth and Paul.