Sophia Rose is here with a review of the third novel in the Elena Standish, historical mystery series. Grab a cup of tea and travel to the 1930s in A Darker Reality by Anne Perry.
The third novel in Anne Perry’s breathtakingly tense and exciting spy thriller series, featuring young British photographer and secret agent Elena Standish, set in the 1930s when the world was a place of increasing fear and uncertainty…
Spring, 1934. With the threat of war looming, political tensions begin to rise…
Elena Standish, a young English photographer who works for British Intelligence, is visiting her grandparents’ home in Washington DC when tragedy strikes. A lavish party is held to mark her grandparent’s sixtieth wedding anniversary and Elena takes pride in capturing the event on camera, but when the beautiful wife of a renowned scientist is found murdered in the driveway, allegedly run over by Elena’s grandfather’s car, Elena’s world is turned upside down.
Arrested on suspicion of murder, Wyatt Baylor protests his innocence, claiming he has enemies who are trying to frame him. But who are these enemies and how can Elena defend a man she barely knows? Turning to secret agent James Allenby for help, Elena must uncover the truth behind the events of that fateful night. But can she trust Allenby or her family and is she willing to risk everything in her pursuit of the truth?
Sophia Rose’s Review
During the pre-WWII years, a young British woman, after seeing a horrifying demonstration of what is happening within Nazi Germany, has eagerly joined the British secret service to do her part to keep her own country safe and stop the atrocities that she suspects are coming.
With each new book, Elena Standish is confronted by a dangerous circumstance that stretches her emotionally and in her new profession. Enjoying the past books, I was eager to pick up this latest. Because of the way each book progresses with Elena’s life and the people around her while following a countdown to war as events move forward in time, I highly suggest readers start with the first book and read the series in order.
The Darker Reality occurs in spring of 1934, taking Elena and her parents across the pond to stay with her maternal grandparents. Elena has only met them once as a small child and so meeting her American grandparents is like meeting strangers that she knows a bit of something about. The occasion is to celebrate Wyatt and Dorothy’s 60th wedding anniversary at their grand house just outside Washington, DC. Elena sees where her mother grew up and her mother happily shares many childhood memories as to her grandparents.
The night of the anniversary celebration brings out Washington’s elite- the movers and shakers including the Roosevelts themselves. Elena is pleased to have her small camera with her to photograph the event for the magazine and for her own pleasure. She is much struck by a charismatic and beautiful Austrian woman married to an American scientist, Lila Worth. Elena is also stunned to hear many in the throng embracing the ideals of the Nazi Party and a similar organization, Free America. But then Lila is killed when a car runs her down. Not long after, the accident becomes a homicide investigation and her grandfather, Wyatt, stands accused because he seems to have been missing from the party and could have conked Lila on the head before arranging to run her down since it was his own car that was used.
Not just a murder investigation though Elena is determined to prove this little known grandfather innocent, but she is not unaware that the investigation is political because of who Lila was and that no one could have come from the outside to do the job- it was her grandfather or someone in his circle of friends. With the assistance of fellow British agent, Allenby, who had been Lila’s partner in rooting out the person sending the Nazi’s details about the American work with an atomic weapon and whatever else would be useful to know of American strengths and weaknesses, Elena sifts through all the suspects, motives, and opportunities while trying to help Allenby find the Nazi pipeline of information.
While I was dazzled by book one and really liked book two, this third Elena Standish venture took me the longest time to make a connection. There were a few reasons for this. At first, I was shocked at how Elena was acting. It was hard to believe she was 29 and already had such harrowing adventures in earlier books. This Elena acted like an untried amateur girl sleuth and she deserved it when James Allenby had to jerk a knot in her to control her impulses, emotions, and try thinking before she spoke or acted instead of running around wrecking havoc in the mission.
Then there was a lot of time spent rehashing the same thoughts and ideologies so that the pace bogged down. It was fascinating the first few times that Elena and others pondered the chilling rhetoric espoused by Free America and how could people actually believe in it. On a side note, the historical setting and descriptions were richly drawn and seemed authentic.
I figured out the mystery’s who, why, and how not long after the murder was announced and it wasn’t that hard so I was flummoxed as to why the pros and particularly insiders like Elena who was on the spot found it so tough to work out. I guess it is a matter of letting one’s emotions get in the way, so I tried to cut her some slack, especially since she got back in the game and did some really good espionage and detective work in the end.
So, in summary, it wasn’t the best outing in the series, but did end up well and left things open to pursue that dangerous Nazi spy network that needs to be identified. I hope James Allenby is back for the next book. Historical Mystery fans who like the pre-war era of the 1930s and a mix of mystery and intrigue should definitely give these a try.
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