I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, February 6, 2017

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

New York Times best-selling author, Jayne Ann Krentz, writes her modern day suspense novels under her real name, her historical suspense novels under the name Amanda Quick, and her futuristic fantasy novels under the name Jayne Castle.  This is one of her Amanda Quick novels, and while some of these novels are part of a series, this one is a stand alone.  It takes place in the late Victorian times.  Archeologist and adventurer, Slater Roxton, a bastard, born from Lily Lafountaine, a famous, talented, and well-off actress and Roxton, a man of the ton.  When Roxton's first marriage ends with the death of his wife and with no children, he still cannot marry Lilly, even though she has provided him with a son, he must marry someone of his station.  Luckily for all involved, he marries a young woman who sees the marriage as a business arrangement and likes Lilly and Slater, who, after the death of his father, returns home from his business of tracking down antiquities around the world to manage the estate for the two young boys, whom he adores.  While Slater is left a small amount of an inheritance, he will never get the title or the estate, but he cares nothing for such things.

Before Slater returned home, he and his friend Brice hunted down a legendary island, Fever Island, and discover a building filled with passageways and priceless treasures.  When the ceiling collapses separating the two friends, Slater knows that the ship's captain needed to leave soon since they were low on supplies and that everyone would assume he was dead anyway, which they did.  He finds three paths, one filled with pictures of war, one with vengeance, and the third one, which he chooses.  After running out of food and water, he begins to wonder if he'll survive but soon arrives in the sunlight, where there is a rope he uses to climb out of the building.  There is a monastery of sorts there, where they teach philosophy and to control your emotions.  He studies there until a year later, a ship comes by and takes him back to London, a changed man.  The press has a field day with him, speculating on his oddities and eccentrics as being a sign of madness and that he performs bizarre rituals in his basement where he lures unsuspecting females and other such nonsense.  Since he has no idea how to hire a staff for his home, he lets his mother do it and she hires all sorts of actors who are between jobs, or have had to retire and cannot get work, so he has an odd mélange of characters in his household, which suits him.

Ursula Kern is the owner of the highly successful Kern Secretarial Agency that only employs the best and most talented women as secretaries.  She has had to reinvent herself due to a scandal in her past and someone is trying to blackmail her.  However, she does not have time to deal with that right now, because of her best friend Anne Clifton, who was working for Lady Fulbrook taking down her love poetry and then typing it up for her.  When Anne is discovered dead, Ursula suspects foul play, but the police are unable to discover anything to support that theory and refuse to investigate further.  When Ursula goes to her client Slater, whose archeological work she has been cataloging, to tell him that she will have to take leave of the work for a while, he demands to know why.  Ursula decides to trust him and tells him about Anne and her suspicions.

Soon, the two are neck deep into something bigger than they expected: a powerful drug ring, that involves a secret society called the Olympus club whose members are given the highly hallucinogenic drug that makes them amorous and is provided with courtesans.  Occasionally, especially lately, the drug has been making the men dangerous.  Somehow Fulbrook is involved with this and it is likely that Anne discovered what was going on and was killed for it, as others have been.

As things become more dangerous, the two become more intimate, but Ursula worries that Slater's great logic, which is useful sometimes, and his training of not to have emotions, will destroy any chance they have of a life together. Not to mention the secrets each are keeping from the other.  She seems to be unable to reach him and he, as a typical man, is completely clueless.  Will they figure out their lives together before someone gets to them and kills them first?

This is a really delightful romp of a book with a strong female character who can take care of herself, whether it be with a sharp hatpin or a gun or her great intelligence and sharp thinking.  Slater is refreshing too.  He is not a man of nobility, but one on the fringe of proper society and the world of the stage.  He can be just a bit as melodramatic as his mother, who is the one who made her lover all his money, because she had a natural talent for business, and seems to know what everyone is up to in London.  This book is unique in its storyline of an old fashioned drug cartel and a den of iniquity where men do whatever, to whomever, they want.  All the supporting characters were delightful too, including Matty, Ursula's second in command, who has been going to see a doctor to treat her "hysteria", which at that time doctors were using dildos to treat this mysterious condition that we call an orgasm, that the doctors of the time did not recognize, because women were believed to not enjoy sex.  I will recommend pretty much any Amanda Quick novel, but this one was really one of her best.

As far as I’m concerned, the necessity of wearing fashionable gowns that feel like a suit of armor and weigh approximately the same, with skirts so heavy and voluminous that they make the simple act of walking a difficult endeavor, is an exotic ritual.  Yet ladies here in London do it every day.
--Amanda Quick (Garden of Lies p111)
You heard the accent.  He’s an American criminal trying to escape in our fair city [London].  I doubt he’ll go far…He’ll stand out on the streets.  After all, he can barely speak the language.
--Amanda Quick (Garden of Lies p 242)
Fantasies are gossamer things, are they not?  Reality invariably crushes them.--Amanda Quick (Garden of Lies p 335)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Garden-Lies-Amanda-Quick-ebook/dp/B00O2BS780/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486391698&sr=1-1&keywords=garden+of+lies


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