When I read the cover story of The Lost Empress, I just had to have it! Never mind that my TBR list is a mile long and there is hardly any space left on my Kindle.
Readers of this blog know – I just love nautical themes and stories that feature the ocean or ships in some way. And I also love historical mysteries. The Lost Empress seemed to be the story of the Empress of Ireland that sank in Canada in 1914 taking over a thousand souls with it. I had never read a genealogical mystery so this promised to be something different.
Jefferson Tayte or JT as he likes to be called is a genealogist. He traces family histories. JT is hired by a wealthy American to find out more about her grandmother. His search leads him to the Empress of Ireland where he soon determines that Alice Dixon, the object of his search, was traveling as Alice Stillwell on the Empress and is presumed dead along with the ship. Over a hundred years have passed and JT has to solve the riddle. Were these two Alices the same. And why did Alice leave her old life behind and change her name after the ship wreck?
JT’s search leads him to the UK where he is turned away rudely from Hamberly, Alice Stillwell’s father’s one time estate. An attempt on his life leads him to believe that he may be on the right track. He teams up with DI Bishop to solve another recent murder that might be related to his quest.
The book alternates between the past and present. The present deals with JT’s search into the mystery surrounding Alice’s life. And the past is set in 1914 where we follow the events that occurred in Alice’s life. So the reader is always ahead of JT, as far as knowing what happened is concerned. This seemed odd at first, and I am still not sure if it might not have been more fun if the reader had unraveled the mystery along with JT. The way the book is now, the reader knows what happened, it’s just a matter of how JT gets to the truth.
The political climate in 1914 is portrayed well with the world on the brink of war. Some of the speech seems misplaced at times. For example, a British aristocrat says ‘Sorry doesn’t cut it’. In my opinion, this is a true blue American expression. A present day Brit might say it, but would a British aristocrat in 1914 have spoken in this manner?
All said, I did enjoy reading the book. I am actually not sure why the search for Alice is so important that JT is willing to bet his life on it. But then, maybe that is what a genealogist does? If you love reading about ship wrecks or war time espionage, you will surely enjoy reading The Lost Empress!