Book Review: A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

Posted September 16, 2020 by Asheley in review / 2 Comments

A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden
Book Review: A Trace of Deceit by Karen OddenA Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden
Series: Victorian Mystery #2
Published by William Morrow on December 17, 2019
Source: the author
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From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Since I read the first book in this series nearly two years ago, I’ve grown to adore historical mysteries. When I was offered the chance to read this second Victorian Mystery book, I jumped at it. The previous book featured Nell Hallum, a musician, working along with her brother Matthew Hallum to solve crimes. In this story, art student Annabel Rowe works with Matthew to solve crimes, including the murder of her brother.

Annabel is an art student with a standing weekly dinner date with her brother, Edwin. Edwin has had a troubled past, but he has cleaned himself up and now appears to be living and working honestly. When Annabel doesn’t hear from Edwin about their upcoming dinner date, she goes to his house to see what is going on. When she arrives, she finds Inspector Matthew Hallum inside, searching for clues to his murder. Annabel is devastated, and after taking a day or two to think about her brother, she comes to the conclusion that she wants help the Inspector solve the mystery. Under normal circumstances, the regular public doesn’t really work side-by-side with law enforcement, but Annabel is able to convince Matthew that she will be an asset to his investigation. 

A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

I love that Annabel Rowe is a strong, independent leading female. Ms. Odden’s previous work also has fiery and smart leading women, and I think this is something that she does really well. Annabel has a lot to add to the story and to the investigation, and I appreciate that the author has created a male detective in Matthew that is open to listening to women during a time when women weren’t always considered bright and smart. The fact that this story centers around the art world is so much fun. There is far more intrigue and suspense in the art world than most of us realize, I think, and it is always loads of fun to read stories with art-centered mysteries.

This story is really good at painting the picture of the complicated sibling relationship between Annabel and Edwin, and I was really able to feel Annabel’s complicated feelings throughout the story. I really felt for her when she found out that her brother was gone. The previous book in this series also had a nice sibling relationship and I appreciate that the author brings out some real emotions between sisters and brothers in a way that permeates the story and jumps off of the pages. 

I really hope Ms. Odden is continuing on with this series. I would compare my enjoyment of these books to the way I enjoy Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. The Victorian London setting is vibrant in a dark, foggy, damp way and it is easy to visualize as the story progresses. Sometimes the female characters in books like this one are stuck in the norms of the time in terms of what they can and can’t do in their society (boo!), but I am finding that Ms. Odden’s characters break with convention just a little bit and assert themselves. I love that. I think fans of historical mystery stories would love this one, especially those that may have an interest in art. I was worried that I would have trouble connecting this book with the previous one in the series since it has been a while since I’ve read it, but I did not! It is easy to make the connections between characters and setting, although I do believe A Trace of Deceit works well as a standalone for those that may not have read the first in the series yet. 


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About Karen Odden

Karen Odden Author Photo

Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


2 responses to “Book Review: A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

  1. Karen Odden

    Thanks for the book love! Yes, I am fascinated by sibling relationships, partly because I think that’s where our socialization begins, as children. That is, parents help with this, but our siblings provide an opportunity to work out different kinds of situations such as jealousy and loyalty and trust among those who are “equals” in age and position … and thanks for noticing how hard I work to make Victorian London come alive 🙂

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