Tasha Alexander’s new book, Behind the Shattered Glass, is the eighth in her Lady Emily historical suspense series and one of the more enjoyable books this reviewer has read in some time. It is written with such a sure, smooth hand, it almost seems as if Alexander’s words arrive on paper without effort, and it illustrates why she has become a New York Times best-selling author.
Emily and her dashing husband, Colin Hargreave, get caught up in a new puzzle when Archibald Scolfield, a neighbor and the latest Marquess of Montagu, staggers into the library of their Anglemore Park estate and drops dead on the carpet. Not content to leave the murder investigation up to the police, they decide to find the killer themselves by retracing the events that led to his untimely death.
Since the Hargreaves live in the late Victorian era and can’t pursue the evidence via jet flight, SUV or Internet, the book proceeds at an enjoyable pace as Emily and Colin travel to neighbors’ homes on horseback or take a railway train or horse-drawn carriage to various picturesque English destinations to piece the story together.
It soon becomes clear that Archibald enjoyed the ladies—in particular, servant girls well below his societal status—and suspects galore begin to emerge as Emily traces the various female conquests the Marquess left in his wake. Suspicion also falls on the vicar’s daughter, who imagined herself betrothed to the man, as well as on his cousin Matilda, who stood to lose her right to live at the Montagu estate should Archibald decide to marry.
Britain’s rigid social hierarchy is a subject of high concern to both the “upstairs” and “downstairs” characters, and the story emerges in alternating up- and below-stairs narratives that dovetail nicely at the finale. The author is skilled at introducing small events that crisscross one person’s story with another’s, throwing suspicion in all directions. There are also some diverting romantic angles, including a set-to between two of the book’s most entertaining characters, Lady Matilda and her distant cousin Rodney, the (possibly illegitimate) new Lord Montagu.
Emily sometimes appears as a product of her times, while in other moments she seems to inhabit a more modern era as she looks with humor at the foibles and social misconceptions of an earlier time. In either case, her adventures go down easily and are a delight to read.