Smoke and Mirrors (A Miss Barnum Mystery)
by Casey Daniels
Review by Gayle Surrette
Severn House Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780727887252
Date: 01 November 2017 List Price $28.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Evangeline "Evie" Barnum had moved to New York City and now worked as a manager of her brother, P.T. Barnum's, American Museum. She'd left her hometown, Bethel, to start anew in New York. Her brother had taken her in and given her a job against the wishes of his wife and the museum's assistant manager. She enjoyed the freedom of the work and the life she was building for herself.
Evangeline's routine was upset when Andrew Emerson, a friend from Bethel, showed up at the museum begging for her help. Evie refused to listen to him and sent him away. At the end of the day, she found him murdered in front of the exhibit of the Feejee Mermaid. Earlier, Jeffrey Hollister had fought with Andrew when he'd grabbed Evie to force her to listen to him and that made him the prime suspect in the murder. Evie knew he didn't do it and she was determined to prove it. She also managed to check Andrew's pockets for the paper he tried to give her when he first spoke to her before the police arrived.
From the note, Evie learned that Andrew's sister had run away to New York with a young man that Evie knew well. So, now she had two mysteries to solve. While determined to investigate, she learns that her sister-in-law is determined to marry her off to a neighbor. It also seems that the neighbor is also determined to marry her as he needs someone to care for his children.
So, Evie needs to solve a murder, find Andrew's sister, avoid getting married, and, even more importantly, avoid getting killed herself. The tension builds as several attempts are made on Evie's life, the first one even before she manages to start her investigation. What is up with that? Coincidence? Related to the murder? Why her?
Tightly plotted with characters that are fully developed and with a lot of backstories, Smoke and Mirrors is a definite page-turner. The historical aspects of the story feel real and New York City itself becomes a major part of the story as does Barnum's American Museum and its oddities – living, fabricated, tool, or art. I'm looking forward hopefully to Evangeline Barnum's next adventure.