A Trace of Deceit

A Trace of Deceit

Winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Historical FictionA Paperback OriginalFrom the author ofA 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...

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Title:A Trace of Deceit
Author:Karen Odden
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A Trace of Deceit Reviews

  • Tamara

    My patient anticipation of A Trace of Deceit was sweetly rewarded when I began started reading on New Year's Day, and most of it was spent reading it! It did not disappoint as I have found in the previous novels of Karen Odden.

    It was easy to fall into the world of Annabel Rowe as she finds out that her brother Edwin Rowe is dead, and not just that, he's been murdered. But for what and why? Annabel is determined to find out what happened to her older brother? She feels guilty of not feeling that

    My patient anticipation of A Trace of Deceit was sweetly rewarded when I began started reading on New Year's Day, and most of it was spent reading it! It did not disappoint as I have found in the previous novels of Karen Odden.

    It was easy to fall into the world of Annabel Rowe as she finds out that her brother Edwin Rowe is dead, and not just that, he's been murdered. But for what and why? Annabel is determined to find out what happened to her older brother? She feels guilty of not feeling that she had forgiven Edwin for what happened at Tennersley, and all the unknown variables that she isn't even aware of before his passing.

    The main characters of Annabel Rowe and Matthew Hallam were wonderful to read about. I thought Matthew was the most wonderful fictional gentleman, he was respectful, kind, gentle, strong, courageous, and I could go on forever about Matthew...:) He's the kind of policeman that should populate every police department.

    In short, it was wonderfully written. I look forward to the next novel by Ms. Odden!

  • VL

    I just really love these books.

  • K

    “I think all of our memories have a trace of deceit in them.” Trace of Deceit is the second book I’ve read by Karen Odden, and I LOVED everything about it. Annabel and Matthew are delightful characters, not perfect but human and realistic. Ms. Odden has clearly done her research because her descriptions of art, painting and the auction world are detailed and expansive. She doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of human nature, especially when Matthew’s case takes the pair to visit the boarding

    “I think all of our memories have a trace of deceit in them.” Trace of Deceit is the second book I’ve read by Karen Odden, and I LOVED everything about it. Annabel and Matthew are delightful characters, not perfect but human and realistic. Ms. Odden has clearly done her research because her descriptions of art, painting and the auction world are detailed and expansive. She doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of human nature, especially when Matthew’s case takes the pair to visit the boarding school Annabel’s brother attended. More than a cozy mystery, everything about this story is enjoyable. So well done!

    P.S. Many thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC.

  • Anne Morgan

    Annabel Rowe has been slowly working to reconcile with her brother Edwin, but one day she arrives at his flat to discover two detectives there with the news that Edwin is dead. Murdered, with a valuable painting he had been cleaning now missing. Annabel needs to understand what happened to her brother to gain some closure on his death (and life) and she convinces Inspector Matthew Hallam that her knowledge of the art world and Edwin will prove valuable to discovering his murderer. But what they

    Annabel Rowe has been slowly working to reconcile with her brother Edwin, but one day she arrives at his flat to discover two detectives there with the news that Edwin is dead. Murdered, with a valuable painting he had been cleaning now missing. Annabel needs to understand what happened to her brother to gain some closure on his death (and life) and she convinces Inspector Matthew Hallam that her knowledge of the art world and Edwin will prove valuable to discovering his murderer. But what they discover is the darkness behind the art world, where secrets fester and can prove worth killing for.

    A Trace of Deceit is an engrossing Victorian mystery with a strong central figure in Annabel. A student at the Slade Art School, she is trying to find her place in the masculine world of painting. She sees herself as an observer instead of a participant in the world and holds herself apart from fellow students and her older brother, trying to prevent herself from being hurt. But Annabel is only fooling herself- she's a caring, compassionate woman who feels deeply. Edwin's death hits her hard, but she finds strength in working with Matthew to discover the killer. She doesn't shy away from hard truths, although she might not think of them as automatically as a more cynical person would. And there are plenty of hard truths about Edwin that she has to accept in order to understand his murder.

    Where Odden's A Dangerous Duet brought readers into intimate contact with the city of London, A Trace of Deceit focuses on its people. Like Annabel herself, we focus on how they interact, what they show, and what they hide. We see through the eyes of a painter the light and the dark that make up the world around Annabel and Matthew. Odden uses this not only to give the reader brilliant descriptions of the lives around our heroes, but to plant red herrings and clues with equal strength, forcing the reader to continually adjust their view of what seems, at first, to be a simple murder.

    Engrossing from start to finish, A Trace of Deceit will keep readers guessing from start to finish, in a book impossible to put down until the last stone is unturned and the last secret is revealed. Full of heart and empathy, Odden explores how individuals deal with personal and family tragedies, betrayals, and secrets. A must read for fans of Sherry Thomas, Anne Perry, and Victorian mystery lovers everywhere.

  • Linda Rorex

    This second book from the Victorian Mystery series by Karen Odden tells the story of Annabel Rowe and her quest to find the killer who murdered her brother Edwin. Inspector Matthew Hallam from Scotland Yard is sent to investigate Edwin’s murder. Matthew with the help of Annabel uncover deceit and deceptions in the art world. I really enjoyed reading this cozy mystery book. I received this free book and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  • Marlene

    Originally published at

    “I think all our memories have a trace of deceit in them,” at least according to Inspector Matthew Hallam, the hero of our story – and of the previous book in this series, A Dangerous Duet.

    He’s not wrong, not in the context of the story, and not in real life, either. It’s been said that looking at a memory is like opening a page in a book, and that every time we do so, we change it just a little bit – blur the edges, smudge a section, make it sound better –

    Originally published at

    “I think all our memories have a trace of deceit in them,” at least according to Inspector Matthew Hallam, the hero of our story – and of the previous book in this series, A Dangerous Duet.

    He’s not wrong, not in the context of the story, and not in real life, either. It’s been said that looking at a memory is like opening a page in a book, and that every time we do so, we change it just a little bit – blur the edges, smudge a section, make it sound better – or worse – until the original memory has been altered into the memory of the story we tell ourselves – and everyone else.

    Sometimes we remember things, situations, people being better or happier than they really were. And sometimes we remember them as worse. It all depends on whatever story we want – or need – to tell ourselves.

    Annabel Rowe has spent most of her adult years telling herself the story of how her brother Edwin abandoned her. And he did. Edwin fell into drink and eventually drugs at school, and didn’t quite manage to fall out until after a prison sentence made him rethink his life. It probably helped that the man Edwin was rebelling against, their father, was dead.

    But Edwin and Annabel had been best friends and close companions as children. And when Edwin was sent off to boarding school, things changed – and not for the better. He did more than leave her behind – as was inevitable. He stopped communicating. And then, like so many addicts, he started making promises he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – keep.

    He seemed to have turned over a new leaf after prison. Now Annabel and Edwin, both artists, both living on their own in London, had begun a tentative friendship. Annabel was beginning to trust again – but just couldn’t let go of her old hurts. Hurts which were real and legion. She feared, reasonably so, that Edwin would slide back into his old habits and abandon her again.

    They were both young, there was plenty of time to get back to where they used to be – or at least an adult approximation of it.

    Until the day that Annabel went to Edwin’s flat and found the police, in the person of Inspector Matthew Hallam, inspecting the scene of his death.

    Time has run out for Annabel and Edwin to repair their relationship. But it has just begun on Annabel’s opportunity to provide justice for the brother she still loved. If she and Hallam can manage to figure out exactly why Edwin was killed.

    At the heart of this case lies yet another deceit of memory.

    Escape Rating A-: I liked A Trace of Deceit better than its predecessor, A Dangerous Duet. The first story was very plot driven, and it felt like the characters, particularly its central character Nell Hallam (Matthew’s sister) was a vehicle for the plot rather than a fully-fleshed out person. (That all being said, it feels like the link between the two books is fairly loose, and this book can definitely be read as a stand-alone.)

    A Trace of Deceit, on the other hand, was very much Annabel’s story. She feels like a more rounded person as we explore not just where she is now, but her childhood, her relationship with her brother, with their parents, and her conflicted feelings about who she is and where she’s been.

    While I did figure out what happened to Edwin in the past, what made him change, fairly early in the investigation, this is not after all Edwin’s story. And I understood and empathized with Annabel’s need to finally figure out the person her brother had been and what made him that person – and what led to his death.

    The title of the story is ironic in a way. Annabel had remembered her childhood with Edwin as being less bright than it was in order to sustain her caution and mistrust. In her investigation of his murder she reclaims the brighter memories of their childhood. Even as she wonders whether they have only become so bright because she needs them to be, or whether she suppressed them because they only made Edwin’s frequent betrayals sharper.

    But Edwin’s death is the result of someone else’s deceitful memories. Someone who has cast Edwin as the villain of their story rather than tarnish the image of someone they held dear.

    So, I enjoyed the story and found the mystery fascinating. But what made the book for me was the character of Annabel and the way that she fit into her setting. One of the things that can be difficult about female protagonists in historical fiction is the need for the character to have agency and yet not seem out of her time in either attitudes or opportunities. Annabel feels like she belongs. Her story was set at a time when women could just manage to have an independent life if circumstances aligned. She has just enough income to keep herself, but has to be frugal about her expenses. She lives on her own and that’s accepted and acceptable. She doesn’t expect anyone to rescue her or take care of her – and she’s right not to do so. Nothing is easy for her as a woman alone – but it is possible in a way that feels right.

    I read this one in a single day and felt like the story closed properly and yet I was a bit sad to see it end. Not that I wanted Annabel’s travails to go on a moment longer – more that I was hoping there would be an opportunity to visit her again.

  • Karen

    I probably shouldn't say this, but this is my favorite of my three books. In writing, as with most things, there is no substitute for experience, and as I developed this book, I simply had more tools at hand to create rounded characters. I also had enough faith in the process to let the characters speak back to me and add their own nuance and complexity to my initial plot, and to let myself feel the depth of all of Annabel's emotions--even the most uncomfortable ones--the wistful longing, her

    I probably shouldn't say this, but this is my favorite of my three books. In writing, as with most things, there is no substitute for experience, and as I developed this book, I simply had more tools at hand to create rounded characters. I also had enough faith in the process to let the characters speak back to me and add their own nuance and complexity to my initial plot, and to let myself feel the depth of all of Annabel's emotions--even the most uncomfortable ones--the wistful longing, her resentment, her worry and concern for Edwin, her loneliness, her regret, and her guilt. There are two main plot arcs here: first, the solving of the mystery of Edwin's death; and second, the evolution and progress of Annabel's character. It took many drafts to find the way these two plots twined together and to balance them, and I hope my readers find the result as satisfying as I do.

  • WhiskeyintheJar/Kyraryker

    3.5 stars

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

    Annabel has been working to trust her brother again after he is released from jail for counterfeiting paintings but when she arrives at his flat to find two plainclothes detectives, she knows something is direly wrong.

    With her art world knowledge, Annabel could be a tremendous help to Inspector Matthew as he searches for an art thief and murderer but

    3.5 stars

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

    Annabel has been working to trust her brother again after he is released from jail for counterfeiting paintings but when she arrives at his flat to find two plainclothes detectives, she knows something is direly wrong.

    With her art world knowledge, Annabel could be a tremendous help to Inspector Matthew as he searches for an art thief and murderer but it's getting increasingly hard for him to put her in danger.

    Suspects are lining up, plots are thickening, and buried secrets are getting revealed in this Victorian murder mystery.

    A Dangerous Duet, first in the Victorian Mystery series, introduced readers to the heroine's brother Matthew. A broody, overworked Inspector who took time and care with his thoughts and actions. I enjoyed watching him think and deduct in this continuation of the series. However, this is very much Annabel's story. Reader's come up on her as she has a sinking feeling about her brother Edwin, but as he has disappointed her in the past about turning his life around, she arrives at his flat annoyed that she is worried about him. This makes the impact of learning he was murdered hit her harder as guilt takes over. As this story is told from Annabel's point of view, readers really get into her head and I found her to be a calm, thoughtful, and intelligent heroine.

    The murder mystery plot has Matthew trying to solve who and why murdered Edwin and possibly stole a painting he was cleaning. Was the murder random, was the painting the crux of the murder, or was Edwin targeted because of instances in his past? The author did a good job providing us with red-herrings: Felix is a friend of Annabel and Edwin and he gave the painting to Edwin to clean for his auction house. When it comes out that the painting could be a forgery, his reputation and livelihood are on the line. The seller of the painting, a widow, claims the painting was supposed to be a gift for her anniversary from her late husband but she is also in need of money. The step-son of the man who supposedly sold it to the widow's husband, claims it was burned in a fire and the painting has to be a forgery but if not, he wants it back; his relationship was very contentious with his step-father. Then lastly, possible enemies from Edwin's childhood school days.

    I thought the author's strong suit was in providing these possible suspects and developing their reasons, slowly revealing them to the reader. This kept me guessing, involved, and locked into the mystery. Tying in and keeping Annabel involved with the investigation, through her art world knowledge, got a bit too in depth for me at times. I'm not a particular art connoisseur but others that are would maybe enjoy the name dropping and dive into paintings and painters that were popular or emerging during this time period. The author also includes some political background and tied in some real events, the Pantechnicon burning down, that helped set the period feel and gave the story more authenticity for me.

    The focus of the story is very much on the art world and wadding through facts, backstories, characters, and revealed secrets to find out who and why Edwin was murdered, the romance between Annabel and Matthew is probably only around 3% of this stories focus. I was surprised, though, that the last 10% was so emotional for me, be prepared to have some of the slow, steady reveals from the murder mystery to hit you hard at the end. With the way the author hit me with this emotional writing, I was a little disappointed I didn't feel it throughout the story; the art world talk eclipsed it. Regardless, if looking for a Victorian murder mystery immersed in the art world,

    delivers with meaningful red-herrings and an affecting end.

  • Norah Gibbons

    I received an ARC of this book to read through Edelweiss+ in exchange for a fair review. A Trace of Deceit is the third book in Karen Odden’s Victorian Mystery series. It can be read as a stand-alone. Artist Edwin Rowe has been murdered and his death seems to be tied to a missing painting, one that was supposed to have been destroyed in a fire five years previously. Annabel Rowe also an artist is determined to solve the mystery of her brothers death at a time when he finally seemed to be getting

    I received an ARC of this book to read through Edelweiss+ in exchange for a fair review. A Trace of Deceit is the third book in Karen Odden’s Victorian Mystery series. It can be read as a stand-alone. Artist Edwin Rowe has been murdered and his death seems to be tied to a missing painting, one that was supposed to have been destroyed in a fire five years previously. Annabel Rowe also an artist is determined to solve the mystery of her brothers death at a time when he finally seemed to be getting his life back on track after period of trouble and incarceration. With the help of Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard she finds that nothing is as it first seemed and finding the truth will change her perceptions of both past and present. I enjoyed reading this book immensely and highly recommend it. Publishing Date December 17, 2019. #Edelweissplus #ATraceOfDeceit #VictorianMysteryNovel #Bookstagram #HistoricalFiction #KarenOdden

  • Mackenzie - PhDiva Books

    A Victorian mystery with everything you could want—a strong leading lady, a murder in London’s art world, a meticulous detective, and a missing painting. A Trace of Deceit is a gripping and complex mystery set in the world of Victorian London’s art scene that historical mystery fans will not want to miss!

    Though it’s the second in a series by Karen Odden, A Trace of Deceit definitely works as a stand-alone mystery. The series is based on the time period and our leading detective Matthew Hallam.

    A Victorian mystery with everything you could want—a strong leading lady, a murder in London’s art world, a meticulous detective, and a missing painting. A Trace of Deceit is a gripping and complex mystery set in the world of Victorian London’s art scene that historical mystery fans will not want to miss!

    Though it’s the second in a series by Karen Odden, A Trace of Deceit definitely works as a stand-alone mystery. The series is based on the time period and our leading detective Matthew Hallam. Though Hallam is the detective here, I felt that this mystery is truly about Annabel Rowe, the mystery of her brother’s murder, and the art world.

    I’ve always loved mysteries involving art! Art is rare in a way that a dollar worth can’t quite capture. It is part of history, it is passion, it is intelligence, and it is creation. If there is one thing this mystery shows, it’s that secrets in the art world are worth killing for…

    Annabel is an art student and she has spent a long time feeling somewhat estranged from her brother Edwin. Edwin has served time for art forgery in the past, so when Annabel finds Scotland Yard in his apartment one afternoon, she worries he is up to his old tricks again. Edwin has been murdered and the search for clues reveals a famous painting that he was restoring is missing from his flat. To further complicate matters, the painting was alleged to have burned in a fire several years earlier. Was it a forgery or the real painting?

    I liked the focus on Annabel and her relationship with her brother. Edwin’s past was very troubled, but there were years in childhood where Annabel and Edwin were close. When they got older and Edwin had troubles with alcohol and ultimately with drugs, he stopped being the same brother she once knew. This added to the complexity of the mystery, because Annabel sought not just to discover who murdered Edwin, but also to understand who he was and what was happening in his life that led to his death.

    Not only did I find the mystery to be completely gripping, but I found Annabel herself to be such a great character. I like to see a progressive Victorian woman, and Annabel seems to have that liberal nature that we want, but also authentic to the time.

    The book itself is filled with intrigue, tension, and suspense. I didn’t want it to end!

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for my copy. Opinions are my own.

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