Behind The Shattered Glass is the latest in Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily, Victorian mystery series.
For the unfamiliar, Lady Emily is something of a rebel aristocrat. She is a suffragette who treats her servants like equals and has a love of cigars. With her second husband, Collin, being an agent of the crown, she has been involved in much foreign intrigue. In this book, however, murder comes crashing through her own french front doors.
The first paragraph starts right after the Marque Montigue crashes through the garden of Angelmore (Collin’s ancestral home) and drops dead in the library, all while Collin and Emily are entertaining guests. One guest declares this to be quite bad manners.
Emily and Collin are on the case immediately and begin to question the usual suspects. Intrigues are discovered and scandals unearthed in an engaging, well paced fashion. The story takes on more weight and depth as their questioning reaches their household staff.
The mystery climbs up and down the different social class rankings, much like Downton Abbey or the Robert Altman film, Gosford Park. A narrative rhythm is established as each chapter set in Lady Emily’s first person voice is followed by a third person account from “Downstairs” among the servants. Their mutual involvement even causes Lady Emily to question how liberal minded she really is. One of the best passages in the book is a conversation she has about class over cigars and port with her butler.
All of this is executed with Alexander’s skilled and deft hand. The dialogue has a Noel Coward sharpness and rhythm that provides an authentic Austen feel. She is able to convey the period through her characters’ relationships and their place within this period in time, all while making it relatable to today.
And, if you’re worried about catching up in the series, it’s not necessarily something you must get to before diving into this particular book. Alexander has a wonderful ability of delivering information from previous books to those who have not read them before while providing inside jokes to those of us who are loyal followers. So, never fret, you can wet you palate with Behind the Shattered Glass and then start from the beginning with ease.
Behind The Shattered Glass is a perfectly balanced book. It gives us the feel for time and place without getting bogged in detail. Its wit and intrigue is grounded by glimpses of Victorian oppression. It is a worthy example of the series and the talent of its creator.
Tasha Alexander and her partner in crime (and husband), Andrew Grant, will be at BookPeople this Sunday, November 20 at 4 PM to celebrate their new releases. Andrew Grant is releasing a new book in his David Trevellyan series, More Harm Than Good. Join us this Sunday!