Book Review: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple by Joanna Davidson Politano

  • Title: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple
  • Author: Joanna Davidson Politano
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
  • Would I recommend: Yes! This is an engaging story, sometimes whimsical, sometimes wistful, that points readers toward the best Story ever told.


Peter Driscoll, an underground investigator to the wealthy, has never met anyone like Lily Temple. The beautiful silent-film actress spins fairy tales and plays frivolous roles in front of the cine-camera, but beneath the costumes and stage makeup is a woman with a quick wit–and a murky past.

Peter has been tasked with locating the legendary Briarwood Teardrop, an exquisite sapphire, which Lily wears beneath her gown. In order to stay close to her and hopefully unravel the mystery of her story–and the sapphire–Peter employs Lily’s help on a case, which leads to a useful partnership. But as they are investigating together, Peter is also investigating Lily. The closer he gets to the truth, the more danger they face. And the closer he gets to Lily, the clearer it is that he needs her even more than she needs him.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano whisks you away to Edwardian England in 1903 for a whimsical and layered tale that treads the crooked line between real and make-believe.

Lily Temple is an enigma. Oh, people see her onscreen in the flickers. They see her portrayal of the winsome fairy, ever searching through the looking glass for her heart’s desire. But they don’t know the real person behind the persona. She never lets anyone get close to her for fear of her past catching up to her. And what does her past have to do with the stunning gemstone she hides away?

Peter Driscoll would certainly like to know. He’s a private inquiry agent, and he’s been hired to track down the gemstone – the lauded Briarwood Teardrop, reputed to have mystical healing powers. It doesn’t take Peter too long to determine that Lily at least knows where the stone is. But as he seeks to trace the gem, he’s also realizing that Lily’s story is much deeper than she lets on, and it isn’t enough to know Lily’s public face. He’s investigating her just as much as he is any of his cases, despite warnings from his assistant Roderick that she isn’t the kind of woman Peter should fall in with.

Oh, this story, y’all. It drew me in with a good mystery, and I know from reading The Lost Melody that I enjoy Joanna Davidson Politano’s books. The story starts at the end, and then reveals the events through Lily’s storytelling. That threw me a little at first, but once I was caught up in the tale, there was no getting out of it.

Joanna Davidson Politano spins as marvelous a tale as anything Gordon Makepiece told Lily in the book. She gives us historical details of a real place (St. Anne’s Well Gardens) and a real person (George Albert Smith, one of the earliest filmmakers), and she wraps those details in a story that is by turns whimsical and wistful.

Lily truly is a mystery, as Peter learns. Lily isn’t her given name, but one of many she’s used in the past. What is she running from? How did she get the Briarwood Teardrop? Why is a magistrate sending Scotland Yard after her? Politano unwinds Lily’s story and weaves it together with Peter’s with humor, tension, language that positively glows, and moments of tension where I held my breath waiting to see how they’d get out of THIS jam.

But the real beauty of this story is Lily’s realization that, even when she thought God was nowhere to be found, He never left her. And through her beloved garden, He who created the very first Garden is drawing her back. When Lily started paying attention, she realized that God had been there all along, even when she couldn’t see Him. This story points us squarely to “the truest story. The largest. The one we try to express in the tales we spin.” Just as she used light as the metaphor underlying The Lost Melody, here Politano uses storytelling to show us the Truth that forms the foundation for every tale ever told.

If you love a good mystery, beautiful prose, and a story that will make you weep with its beauty and its parallels to THE Story, you’ll want to pick up The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Revell. I was not required to leave a review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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