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November 16, 2019

Under the Guise of Death by Vivian Conroy ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Do you enjoy a story where you root for a character to be murdered? Then Under the Guise of Death by Vivian Conroy is your book.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

November 2019; Canelo; ebook; cozy mystery
The third book in Conroy's Murder Will Follow series featuring retired Scotland Yard detective Jasper is set in Venice in the 1920s. It is filled with snobbish and arrogant characters that upon their introduction you hope they are the murder victim in this cozy mystery. These characters also have deep, dangerous secrets to keep which makes them all prime suspects.

I have never hoped so much that a character was the intended murder victim than I did Lady Bantham. There is a saying about knowing the true character of a person by how they treat those lesser than them. The exchange with her maid in the first chapter told me everything I needed to know about this woman. She is snobbish and arrogant.

"Open a window. I'm suffocating."
Lady Bantham snapped her fingers at the maid fussing with the heavy brocade skirt of the costume she was to wear to the party tonight.


She clenched her hands shut a moment, her nails digging into her palms. "Open that window! Now."
"Yes, your ladyship. Right away, your ladyship." The maid dropped the costume on the bed and hurried to the window. The latch squeaked as she struggled to get it open. The sound rattled across Lady Bantham's tight nerve ends and she rushed forward. "Leave it be I will do it myself. Tend to the costume. I don't want to see any crinkles in it." (chapter 1)

I can just imagine her hateful, biting tone. As we learn more about her, the picture doesn't getting any better. She's vain and conniving. If there is anything redeeming about her attitude, it is that she is scared. Which is understandable when one builds their life of the shifting sands of lies.

The other characters are equally dislikable. There is a silly, yet volatile violinist whose considerable talent allows his behavior to be overlooked. If there is a character that I feel sorry for, it is probably this violinist as he is young and naive, and therefore, easily taken advantage of. Who is taking advantage of him? His mentor and guardian, Marcheti. Basically, all he sees when he looks at Leonardo Biancci are dollar signs (or whatever the Italien currency is called). Lord Bantham (Lady Bantham's husband who has a temper of his own), Larrissa Kenwood (best friend to both the first and current Lady Banthams), George Arundell (Lady Bantham's brother), and Sir James (father of Olivia, the first Lady Batham) all are characters that you can love to hate.

Yet, it is not any of these characters that meet their untimely end. Instead, it is a case from Jasper's past that comes back to haunt him in this watery renaissance city. As we know from his other Meditteranean attempts at a relaxing retirement, murder seems to follow him.

Under the Guise of Death is a completely stand-alone novel like the previous two books in this series. Jasper is visiting a police friend in Venice and none of the characters in this story have appeared in the others. The other two murders mysteries are only mentioned to establish the series title - Murder Will Follow. Otherwise, you can read these 3 books in any order and not feel confused.

I said in the beginning that it is set in the 1920s, but outside of the mention of telegrams, you would never know it. This story, in particular, felt more like a renaissance period piece. And perhaps that was to convey the true sense of Venice (I've never been there so I wouldn't know, but I believe it would have the old world feel). I would like there to be a few more details to give the story a definite feel of the time period - it is the one complaint that I have with the series. However, if you are thinking historical fiction isn't your thing, then don't worry about that aspect interfering with your enjoyment of the mystery.

As all the characters have ample motive and opportunity to be the murderer. The reader is kept guessing as each clue is revealed and more secrets from the past are uncovered. The mystery is well done and the reader will be hard-pressed to name the murderer before the end.

As this series is a tribute to Agatha Christie and Conroy's admiration of the author, there are definite nods to her that all fans of Christie will appreciate right down to the gathering of all the suspects to reveal the murderer.

Buy Under the Guise of Death at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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