by Mary Miley
Cover Artist: Photo: Getty Images
Review by Verna Suit
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250028167
Date: 17 September 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Leah Randall grew up on the vaudeville stage and it's all she knows. One night after the show she's approached by a well-dressed man, Oliver Beckett, who mistakes her for his long-lost niece Jessie. Leah and Jessie are alike as twins, says Oliver. Jessie disappeared when she was fourteen and is believed dead, but if she were alive she would inherit a fortune in six months' time. Oliver proposes that Leah impersonate Jessie and claim the money -- then share it with Oliver, of course. Leah turns him down because she doesn't want to go to jail. But when she's dropped from her long-running gig and can't find another, she reconsiders and takes a role in Oliver's production of "She Stoops to Con".
Thus under Oliver's tutelage, Leah becomes Jessamyn Beckett Carr and returns to the bosom of the Carr family. Needless to say, she is not joyously received, since the Carrs would have inherited Jessie's money had she not shown up. But Leah settles into life in the family's remote, cliffside mansion and is eventually accepted as Jessie by most of the clan. She's bothered by the fate of the real Jessie, however, and wonders if someone in the family could have killed her. Soon Leah suspects that one of them is trying to kill her, too. But which one?
The Impersonator is an absorbing, suspenseful, charming period piece set in the early 1920s. It takes an insightful look into popular entertainment of the time and also Prohibition-era bootlegging. The vaudeville metaphor is cleverly maintained throughout the book as Leah continues to think of her imposter gig in vaudeville terms. She also uses some of the stage skills she has learned to cement her relationship with some of her "cousins" and to investigate others. Familiar names of celebrities who got their start in vaudeville pepper the story. Jack Benny even plays an active part in the plot. A love interest contributes to a clever, twisty ending that suggests that a sequel to this delightful book is in the offing. That is good news indeed!