If you, like me, enjoy Jane Austin and Agatha Christie, I highly recommend this series. If those two women miraculously had a love child, she would have written something like this.
***Spoiler Alert*** If you have not read the book and intend to, please stop reading this post now, and come back after you’ve finished.
Now for the analysis…
And Only to Deceive is set in nineteenth century Victorian society. The heroine is Lady Emily Ashton. Following the mysterious death of her husband, Philip Ashton, Emily begins going through his things and finds out that he was more than just a good looking, well-moneyed gentleman who liked hunting. He was also a great collector and student of all things Greek. As she goes through his letters, she becomes increasingly convinced that he might still be alive, or that one of his close acquaintances might have caused his death. She also uncovers a forgery plot in which someone is selling original artefacts from the British Museum, and replacing them with convincing forgeries.
She begins to suspect that one of her suitors, Colin Hargreaves, is behind the forgery plot. She also begins to believe that Colin might have killed her husband because he discovered the forgery plot and was going to expose it. She must also face the possibility that her husband, himself, was part of the plot.
Two men vie for her heart, Colin Hargreaves and Andrew Palmer. Both were friends of her dead husband, accompanying him on a hunting trip to Africa. Colin was with him when he died. Andrew was not. Emily initially rejects Colin Hargreaves as a suitor because she believes he is involved in the forgery scandal and because she believes he might have been behind her husband’s death.
A turning point occurs when she and her Parisian friend, Cecile du Lac, hatch a scheme to find out who is behind the forgeries. Cecile sets up a meeting with the forgery dealer, posing as a potential client. While listening in on their meeting, it becomes clear to Emily that the dealer is Andrew, not Colin. This revelation signals a change of heart toward Colin and a new determination to prove that Andrew is somehow linked to her husband’s death and to the forgery ring. It takes the plot in a new direction, through Emily’s subsequent decision to expose Andrew and his forgeries.
This turning point comes quite near the end of the book and leads directly to the climax of the story. The climax includes Emily gathering key players (detectives, friends, victims, and perpetrator) into one place to exposing Andrew Palmer as a crook. (Think of a Poirot or Murder She Wrote scene, where the unlikely detective organizes a meeting in order to get the villain to publicly admit what they have done).
The turning point was, admittedly, a little bit predictable. I think this is mainly due to the fact that Colin is painted in a good light throughout the story and thinking of him as running the forgery plot and killing her husband did not seem likely to me. Likewise, I predicted that Andrew would turn out to be the “baddie” because his character seemed cocky and immature at times and I was not very fond of him, or of his relationship to the heroine.
I will try to take a lesson from this and work to paint specific characters (e.g., the hero and the villain) in a light that is neither obviously good nor bad, in order to increase the tension of the story and keep the reader guessing until the turning point. At that point, I’ll hopefully pull an unexpected plot twist out of a hat and leave the reader shocked and thrilled at the same time.
Back to the analysis, the plot to expose the person leading the forgery plot is well-thought out and believable, and it works for those reasons. It is not contrived and it seems like a plausible way of going about getting to the bottom of things. It is often nice, as a reader, to have justice served at the end of a book.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will continue with the series.
Do you struggle striking a balance between foreshadowing and giving it all away? Any words of wisdom on this topic? Please share!