Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Genre: Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths
Elizabeth Miles finds herself in a position no con can help her escape. Her beloved fiancé, Gideon Bates, is awaiting his turn in the draft to fight in the Great War. Elizabeth is finding it hard to think of anything else, but Gideon has thrown himself into his work, preparing wills for soldiers before they ship out. Corporal Tom Preston is part owner of Preston Shoes, a company that is making footwear for the army, so he has a rather large estate. He needs a new will, however, because he has just been secretly married to a woman whom his family would never approve. He wants to make sure she and their unborn child are provided for if he does not return.
When Tom is later reported killed, Elizabeth and Gideon learn that the new will has gone missing after Tom’s bride revealed her identity to his family. Unless the new will is found and validated, the original will, which leaves everything to Tom’s brother, will prevail and the wife and child will get nothing. If Tom’s new bride survives, that is. Some terrible threats have been leveled against her, and Elizabeth and Gideon must figure out a way, legal or not quite, to secure Tom’s fortune for his wife and child while saving her life in the process.
City of Scoundrels, by Victoria Thompson, is the third installment in the authors Counterfeit Lady series. The Counterfeit Lady series is a historical mystery series featuring Elizabeth Miles, a con woman who finds herself embroiled in intrigue in turn of the century New York. There are several historically accurate events taking place in this story. First, World War I and the impending arrival of US military to the war in Europe.
While Elizabeth's fiancé Gideon Bates is preparing to be drafted to war, the American Protective League is causing harm by reporting those who are not patriotic to the cause. The American Protective League (1917-1919) was an organization of private citizens that worked with Federal law enforcement agencies during the World War I era to identify suspected German sympathizers and to counteract the activities of radicals, anarchists, anti-war activists, and left-wing labor and political organizations.
The second historically accurate event is the 1918 Flu Pandemic that killed up to 50 million people worldwide. The Flu ends affecting almost every character in this story including Gideon. As a lawyer, Gideon is focusing his last few weeks as a civilian on drafting wills for soldiers. Most of them are, but one of the exceptions is Tom Preston, part owner of Preston Shoes, which has made a fortune providing shoes to the soldiers. Tom wants a new will leaving his share of the family business to his new wife and their unborn child – a wife the rest of his family knows nothing about.
When word comes back that Tom has died, his new will goes missing, and his family doesn’t want to acknowledge his widow Rose Preston. Elizabeth our “reformed” grifter engaged to strait-laced lawyer Gideon Bates and a supporter of the Women's Suffrage movement, applies her “arts” to grift money from Tom's family. Elizabeth and her family come up with a scheme to get this war widow the money she should have inherited. But what complications might there be along the way?
In all fairness, the most interesting part of this whole story was the Flu seeing as it affected every part of society world wide. The author seemingly blames the spread of the Flu on American soldiers who were given cramped quarters and quickly built camps in an attempt to reach one million soldiers to send overseas to help defeat the Axis. The Flu hit so hard, that people actually dropped dead within minutes of catching it. It was so devastating that it affected the young more than the old.
I also encourage people to read about President Woodrow Wilson and how hateful he really was. He lied about entering World War I, then did so anyway. He hated women who marched and fought for Suffrage. His hand was literally forced after women started going on food strikes after being arrested and sent to farms. He could not tolerate criticism. He censored the media and quashed any dissent. He created concentration camps for American's of German descent.