A Lady in the Smoke, Karen Odden's debut novel, is a lovely foray into historical mystery.
Lady Elizabeth Frasier has just boarded a train following a disappointing end to her fourth London season. Ruminating on an odd rumour she overheard about the state of her dowry and the fight it caused with her mother, she's understandably distracted when the train she is riding in suddenly crashes. After escaping the wreckage with her unconscious mother and a gash on her forehead, Elizabeth is discovered by railroad surgeon Paul Wilcox, who tends to her head and puts Elizabeth and her mother into a wagon taking train survivors into town.
Elizabeth, finding herself at loose ends in the hotel, makes her way to the scullery where Paul is tending to the injured. After helping him all night, she happens to overhear Paul's conversation about the accident not being accidental. She confronts Paul about it, and is drawn into a web of intrigue trying to determine who would gain the most from staging railroad accidents. Fighting against time after Paul finds himself in gaol, Elizabeth and newspaperman Tom Flynn must find the evidence to not only clear Paul's name, but prove to Parliament that the investigation into the railroads is essential to public safety.
I quite enjoyed A Lady in the Smoke, there was enough subterfuge that the mystery wasn't obvious, but it also wasn't implausible for Elizabeth and Tom to ferret out the truth in the short amount of time they had. Also, the romance between Elizabeth and Paul was very sweet, it wasn't overblown and fraught with melodramatics, it was very understated yet passionate.
I give it four and one half stars. Well written, very likable characters, well paced, a mystery that was plausible...I'd certainly recommend this to my friends with interests in historical fiction, Steampunk, sweet romances, soft mystery, and YA fiction. I'm very much looking forward to what Ms Odden writes next, I have a feeling it'll be quite enjoyable.