Lies and Deception, Laraine Stephens

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The 4th novel in the Reggie da Costa series, LIES AND DECEPTION is a nicely twisty tale of the just desserts served up to a serial conman and his accomplices by a determined crime reporter and his ... accomplices.

If you're new to this lovely series, set in the early 1920's in Melbourne, Reggie da Costa is the lead crime reporter for The Argus newspaper. He's a very debonair chap, possessed of a very stylish wardrobe, a particularly standout motor vehicle, a recently acquired and, as far as he can see, unexpected and utterly beguiling love interest, and a keen, almost preternatural eye for dodgy goings on. 

In LIES AND DECEPTION, the bizarre death of Jasper Fitzalan Howard, stabbed in the very upmarket Windsor Hotel, clutching a tarot card in his hand sets off an investigation that sees da Costa, his sidekick reporter Dusty and love interest, Dusty's sister, Ruby, taking on all sorts of con artists, charlatans, 'snake oil' salesman, thieves and fortune tellers. It's also a story that involves some of the latest forms of interstate travel, an advancement in the romance stakes, and a big step off the high horse for da Costa's mother.

If you're new to this series, LIES AND DECEPTION may not be the best starting point. There's history to da Costa and his mother that goes right back to the first book, and history to his working relationship with Dusty, and romance with Ruby that goes back to the, third, previous book in the series. Knowing the ins and outs of the background to all these personal connections will help enormously in understanding what makes Reggie da Costa tick. Especially as the obsession with wardrobe and his outward appearance may make him, on first glance, seem a bit much. Underneath the outward appearance though, he's a man who loves his mother, but is under no illusions as to her character, finds himself increasingly attached to Ruby, and enjoying working with Dusty. Not so enjoyable is the change in management at The Argus, and the pitfalls he finds himself avoiding at work, whilst engaged on what, he rightly believes, is an important and vital investigation. In the 1920's in Melbourne it seems that the snake oil salesman with their dodgy cure-alls and supposed health improving gadgets were increasingly becoming a problem and fraudsters and conmen, like Howard, have been around forever it seems.

The Reggie da Costa series has always been a pleasure to read. Not exactly cosy, not exactly gory, they fit in the timeframe they are set beautifully. da Costa's always been a really interesting sort of a character in his own right, and the addition of the brother and sister accomplices has fleshed out the character side of the stories really well. The sense of place, and time, and the society bashes, the who's who and the gossip circles where da Costa hears and sees much are beautifully evoked. 

The series in total has so far included the novels: THE DEATH MASK MURDERS, DEADLY INTENT, A DEADLY GAME and now LIES AND DECEPTION.

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Melbourne 1925. Jasper Fitzalan Howard is found stabbed to death in his room at the exclusive Hotel Windsor. In a bizarre twist, he is clutching a tarot card, the Ten of Swords, in his hand. Initially, the police identify him as a wealthy investor and a cousin of the Duke of Norfolk, but Reggie da Costa, The Argus’s celebrated crime reporter, uncovers a web of lies and deception surrounding Howard’s carefully constructed façade. And, as the truth emerges, that Howard is a confidence man, swindling wealthy businessmen whilst blackmailing their wives, Reggie embarks on a hunt for his killer.  

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