Friday, August 7, 2015

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

The Kern Secretarial Agency provides reliable professional services to its wealthy clientele, and Anne Clifton was one of the finest young women in Ursula Kern's employ.  But Miss Clifton has met an untimely end--and Ursula is convinced it was not due to natural causes.

Bent on justice, Ursula hatches a plan: take Anne's place as stenographer to the reclusive poet Valerie, Lady Fullbrook.  There are dark rumors about Lord Fullbrook, and his gloomy mansion in Mapstone Square seems the logical starting point for an undercover investigation.  

Archaeologist and adventurer Slater Roxton thinks Mrs. Kern is off her head to meddle in such dangerous business.  Slater is familiar with mortal peril--and some suspect he has bone a bit mad since the year he spent trapped amid the volcanic rock and jungle of Fever Island, thousands of miles from civilization.  Nevertheless, he seems sensible enough to Ursula, though she does find herself unnerved by his self-possession and unreadable green-gold eyes...

If this mysterious beauty insists on stirring the pot, Slater intends to remain close by as they venture into the darker side of polite society and a den of iniquity called the Olympus Club.  Together they must reveal the identify of a killer--and to achieve their goal they may need to reveal their deepest secrets to each other as well...

Slater Roxton and his friend Brice have finally achieved their dream of finding Fever Island and are busy examining an amazing labyrinth filled with exquisite artifacts when Brice accidentally sets off a trap designed to ensure no one who is trying to relieve the ancient site of any of its treasures.  Due to its age, all but Slater are able to get out of the structure, and Slater is believed to be dead.  With no other alternative, they leave to sail to England.  Unbeknownst to them, Slater is safe inside but must find his way out of an amazingly complex labyrinth if he wants to have any hope of survival.  When he shows up in England a year after his ordeal, everyone is amazed.  His life and his habits have changed however, and he leaves to live his life on his own terms until his father passes away and he must return to London once more in order to take over his father's affairs until his legitimate heirs are of age.

Ursula Kern has reinvented herself after her life took some tough twists and turns.  She has established a secretarial agency which prides itself on hiring modern women who are trained in the very latest trends of shorthand on the newest typewriter models.  Her secretaries are known to be exclusive and expensive.  One such secretary, Anne Clifton is found dead in her rooms and Ursula discovers a handwritten note that proves to Ursula that Anne did not take her own life, but was instead murdered.  Ursula decides that she must uncover what really happened to Anne.  

Slater has hired Ursula to help him catalog his artifacts and is not happy when Ursula informs him she must take a leave of absence in order to look into her friend's demise.  Slater, determined to spend more time with the intriguing Ursula, offers to help her and another classic Amanda Quick adventure begins.  Many of the Amanda Quick hallmarks are here: a modern widowed woman who can take some liberties with the expected behaviors of the time, a man who has a dark past who uses logic and mental and physical rituals to derive answers to difficult questions, multiple shady characters with varying degrees of dastardliness, and house staff and relatives who are supportive and helpful and beyond the norm for most individuals of that time period.  This formula always works for me; it is like going to my favorite restaurant and ordering my favorite meal.  I know I am going to love it but it is always better than I remember it being.  The actual consumption is always richer and more enjoyable than the mere thought of it.

I hesitate to write any further details because this book is best discovered on one's own as the layers and pieces slowly move about until the final denouement  is revealed.  

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