The Impersonator Review
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The Roaring Twenties were thrilling years in our country’s cultural history—a time of music and dancing, of art and design, of theater and film. And the style and culture of that distinctive decade offer a lively backdrop for author Mary Miley’s whodunit debut, The Impersonator.

The story takes place in 1924, seven years after orphaned teen heiress Jessie Carr went missing. When her uncle, Oliver Beckett, takes in a Vaudeville show, he’s convinced that he’s found his long-lost niece. Instead, he’s found Leah Randall, a young performer who’s been on the stage her entire life.

Oliver sees this chance encounter as the perfect opportunity to make a comfortable living. With Jessie’s twenty-first birthday approaching, all he needs to do is hire the young actress to pose as his niece, so she can inherit the family’s fortune. Then she and Oliver can walk away with the money. Leah is reluctant at first, but when she loses her job, she agrees to the offer—and she soon finds herself caught up in the mystery of her doppelganger’s disappearance.

With its suspenseful story and its vibrant period setting, The Impersonator is a chic and stylish mystery. Historian Miley fills the novel with fascinating historical tidbits, taking readers behind the scenes (and into the audience) of Vaudeville and offering an interesting look at life during Prohibition. Her descriptions help to set the stage and add interest to the story without overpowering it.

The same is true of the novel’s leading lady: she guides the story and gives it personality, yet she’s fully aware that the story is really Jessie’s—not hers. Still, a lifelong performer, she makes a strong main character. She’s lived her life on the road, traveling from one city to another, changing her name as often as she changed her role—but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a mind of her own. She’s talented and resourceful, able to think on her feet in the most unexpected situations—which makes her a natural for the job. And when she takes on Jessie’s life, she finds that it offers her something she never knew she wanted: a family. She soon finds herself falling in love with her fake family. She even becomes fond of Jessie herself, which compels her to solve the missing girl’s mystery—even if it means putting herself in danger.

More than just another run-of-the-mill mystery, The Impersonator is a literary journey back to the Roaring Twenties. And, thanks to its likable main character and its enchanting historical setting, it’s well worth the trip.

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