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Veil of Doubt Bets On...

Veil of Doubt

October 2023

VEIL OF DOUBT, Sharon Virts’ second novel, is a historical mystery set in 1872. In it, Maud, the three-year-old daughter of Emily Lloyd, has died after a short illness, from which she seemed to be rebounding. This would be tragic enough if the other three children in the family and her husband had not died previously under mysterious circumstances. Emily is accused of poisoning Maud and quickly is charged with murder. Powell Harrison and his brother, Matthew, take on what appears to be an unwinnable case. Powell has experienced a personal loss recently and watches Emily, projecting some of how he feels onto her. But he is convinced that something is not ringing right. She does not seem capable of murder, yet the child is dead, as are the other family members.

It is interesting that the trial does not start until more than halfway through the book. Earlier we are with the defense team as they are looking to prove that Emily is not guilty by reason of insanity. The case draws huge attention from the town, and testimony from doctors and other experts is presented to be dissected by the jury. Later, we learn more about Emily’s personal history, which had a huge impact on her.

Sharon loves history and found Emily’s story; from there, research sent her down a rabbit hole. She drew upon what she learned about Emily and Powell to construct a narrative that is both interesting and engrossing. I kept finding myself wanting to read one more chapter. Sharon also deftly depicts 19th-century Virginia, where the Civil War shattered so many lives and men were harboring deep memories of war. And she illustrates how a trial would look in this time period as opposed to today. As we listen to testimony, those who will be taking the stand later are still in the courtroom. In the Author’s Note, there is a factoid that if a defendant was acquitted, the state would pay their legal fees, putting a lot of pressure on the prosecutors. I am looking forward to seeing what Sharon writes next.

Veil of Doubt
by Sharon Virts