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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Kim van Alkemade has written several articles in magazines that have been described as "creative non-fiction", whatever that may be.  While researching her family genealogy, she came across a reference to a Medical Journal article that shocked her and she felt compelled to tell the story, but in a fictionalized novel.  Some of the people in this book are actually real.  Some are actually her relatives.  While the girl, Rachel Rabinowitz and her brother Sam are works of fiction, what happens to Rachel, is not.  This is an important book that raises questions about science and its practice, and whether you can forsake justified vengeance and forgive the unforgivable.

In 1919 the Jewish family, the Rabinowitzs, which consists of: Harry, the father who works in a shirtwaist factory, who is saving for the chance to have his own contractor business, goes to Society meetings to make contacts, and is hoping to move his family up to the nicer neighborhood of Harlem; Visha, his wife, who wants another child and dreams of moving out of their three room tenement, where she looks after two boarders and the two children, Rachel, four (who is known for her temper tantrums that only her brother can seem to stop) and Sam, six, who just started school.  When Harry forgets his lunch, Visha and Rachel go to the factory, which Harry has forbidden them to do.  When they return home, an angry Italian mother and her eighteen-year-old daughter show up at her house telling her that Harry, who met the girl at work, has been courting her daughter and has gotten her pregnant.  Its hard to tell which ticks her off more: that her daughter is pregnant by a man already married or that he is really Jewish.  Visha realizes that he has lied to her.  There is no money being saved up.  When he returns home, the two get into a fight and Harry accidently cuts Visha's neck, in front of the two children.  While she bleeds to death on the floor, Harry quickly packs up and runs away.

The children end up going to social services, where a nice woman is determined to find a foster home for them.  Unfortunately, the two will have to be split up for now due to their ages, until she can find a home.  Sam goes to the Hebrews Orphanage Home and Rachel goes to the Infant Hebrew Home.  When she gets there, the social worker is told that Rachel will have to spend a month in isolation to make sure she does not have any diseases.  This was 1919.  Many of the diseases that we have vaccines for now, could kill children back then.    A month later when the social worker returns with the news that a nice Jewish couple in Harlem is willing to take them both, she finds that Rachel now has both measles and conjunctivitis and will not be well enough to be taken in by this couple any time soon, so she looks for another placement for the couple.  The Infant Home would be seen as perhaps, hellish, to those of us today, and I have to admit it rather is.  The nurses do not believe in touching the babies.  Dr. Hess (a real person, who was the son-in-law of Strauss, the founder of Macy's, which is where the Home gets its money for fancy equipment) runs experiments on the children.  He sees them as better than lab rats, in that they are actual human subjects whose situations, such as home life, background, diet, etc...are the same and therefore variables can be controlled, which is a rarity in scientific research.  Rachel's life changes when she meets Dr. Mildred Solomon a female doctor, an oddity of the time, who is there to do her residency and wants to run her own experiment, get published, establish herself, and get out of there. 

This book goes back and forth between Rachel's past growing up and her present as a nurse in the Hebrews Home for the elderly.  Rachel has many secrets.  One is that she is a lesbian whose partner is away in Miami, for some unknown reason.  When Dr. Solomon arrives on her floor, the hospice ward, terminally ill with bone cancer, she recognizes her and talks to her and finds out that she was a doctor at the Infant Home when she was there.  She has always wondered what disease she had that necessitated some form of treatment.  When she goes to the Medical Library she uncovers the horror of what happened in the Home and to her.  She was "material # 8".  She also discovers that because of that she is in grave danger of developing a serious disease that could kill her.

After leaving the Infant Home almost two years later, Rachel goes to the Hebrews Orphan Home, where she meets Mrs. Berger at reception, who works there while her son, Vic, is housed there. Vic's best friend just happens to be Rachel's brother Sam.  While finally reunited, Sam has become hardened by his years in the Home where the bells ring constantly for every possible thing and the orphans respond like Pavlov's dogs sensing exactly when the bell is going to ring and making sure they are where they are supposed to be so they don't get slapped by the monitor (an orphan who is in charge of level and is usually two years older) or worse. There are 1000 kids in the home [my alma mater Catawba College, in Salisbury, NC, only had a little over 800 students and much more space],which is a large castle that takes up a whole city block in New York City.  The book has a photograph of it.  It may seem really bad, but actually, a state home is so much worse.  At least here they receive dental care, medical care, three meals a day, and decent clothes and shoes to wear. 

Sam, determined to look after his sister, bribes one of her monitors, Naomi, to look after her.  Naomi gives her an "acceptable" nickname, because its better to pick what others call you then to have them call you something worse.  Naomi is good to her and treats her almost like a friend and its not just because Sam bribes her.  The years pass and more things happen in Rachel's life, some good and some bad.  [Reviewer's Note: a character in this book, Amelia, is given special treatment because she has long, beautiful red hair.  I, too, have always have had long red hair, but I have not received special treatment for it.  From fifth grade to middle school, I was teased for it, until I took a hardback book, corner-side pointed out, punched Scott Baker in the stomach with it.  Guys wanted to date blondes, not red-heads.  In college, I discovered men who felt differently, and I admit, that now, I am a bit vain about my hair.  But I have never forgot the teasing or the seeming obsession by the world for blondes]

This is an incredible book.  Is Dr. Solomon a Dr. Mengele?  She thinks a bit like him, but what she does (and Dr. Hess for that matter), while inexcusable, are nothing compared to what Mengele did.  Rachel wants an apology, but it does not seem that she is going to get it.  She is given an opportunity to work the night shift where its just her and one other nurse and she has already been holding back on the amount of morphine she has been giving Solomon for days.  Now she is in control.  She has the power.  She can cause Solomon to suffer and then kill her for what she has done to her.  But is Rachel capable of such an act?  Can she really do this?  The question you find yourself asking is what would you do.  And the answer is not an easy one.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Shroud For a Nightingale by P.D. James

This is an early CID Adam Dalgliesh of the Scotland Yard mystery that opens with a nurse, Miss Beale, an Inspector of Nurse Training Schools to the General Nursing Council goes to Heatheringfield, England, out in the country where the John Carpenter Hospital has been since 1792.  The nursing school is in the Nightingale House, an old haunted Victorian House that, in many people's opinions, is quite inappropriate for a nursing school in that the windows, while pretty, do not allow enough light in, and it is drafty and the rooms are not the optimal sizes for what is required.  Miss Beale is quite good at her job and at having the ability to size up people rather accurately. 

Now, let me take a moment to explain the medical community in England at that time.  I have no idea how it is now, but if you do, please feel free to comment below.  In nursing, you go from Nurse to Sister, if you head up a ward or become a teacher, and then, if you are lucky and become head of the hospital nursing staff, you are called a Matron.  The highest a non-nurse can achieve is surgeon, which are referred to as Mr. A Dr. is a step below that and is generally a simple general practionor.  Those that are a Mr. look down upon those that are mere Drs.  as being inferior and less knowledgeable. 

Miss Beale is sat with Sister Rolfe, a middle-aged nurse there, Mr. Courtney-Briggs, a surgeon, and Matron Taylor, who has a reputation for excellence to the point that some wonder why she doesn't head up a place in London.  Some people, thinks Miss Beale, may not want to live in London.  The clinical instructor, Sister Gearing,  is filling in as a teacher because a bout of flu has hit the hospital and many nurses are in bed with it, including Nurse Fallon, who was supposed to act as patient for the demonstration of insertion of a gastric tube and pouring what will be milk for their purposes down the throat.  Nurse Pearce is instead acting as the patient and Miss Beale notices that she seems rather scared, but later puts it down to not liking being the patient when others inform her that she is always like that.  The other student nurses present are: Nurse Dakers, a conscientious  girl who knew her facts and was hard working; the Burnt twins, who were performing the procedure and were seen as rather competent; Nurse Goodale, whom Miss Beale sees as quite an excellent student;  Nurse Pardoe, a girl who is too pretty for her own good; Nurse Harper, a sullen girl.

As soon as the milk goes down the tube and hits Nurse Pearce's stomach, she jumps up gagging and Matron Taylor yanks the tube from her throat.  However, it is too late.  Even with all the medical help right there, she dies of poisoning from disinfectant wash that had been put in the milk bottle.  No one knows what to make of this.  Was it a murder attempt, and if so upon whom?  Nurse Fallon was supposed to be the patient, but everyone seems to have known that she was in the hospital with the flu.  Someone did see her that morning running from the school, which is odd, considering she had a temperature of 103 degrees.  What could she possibly have needed so badly that she had to come back?  Nurse Pearce was not very well liked.  She was rather pious, and holy-than-thou. It wasn't that she was religious; you could accept that about a person, but rather that she saw herself as a judge over others. She was known to have blackmailed others and believed in the punishment fitting the crime. 

The police believe it was a complete accident and do nothing.  Nurse Harper leaves.  She is engaged to be married and her father was only indulging her my letting her go to nurse school when she was never going to practice.  Then, on the night that Nurse Fallon returns from the hospital, the twins wake up to go and get a drink of cocoa at around 2am and see Sister Bremfett, the ward nurse who is known to drag patients kicking and screaming from the jaws of death, whether they want it or not, and takes it as a personal affront when a patient dies.  She has just come from the hospital where one of Mr. Courtney-Briggs's patients had a relapse and had to have surgery, so she went to set the patient up for the night.  They also notice the light under Fallon's door and think about asking her for a cup of cocoa, but realize that Fallon, a private person, might not appreciate a disturbance.

The next morning at breakfast, no one has seen Fallon, so Nurse Drakers goes up to check on her and discovers her with her empty whiskey glass in her hand, dead from poison.  Everyone believes it to be a suicide, especially when it is discovered that she is three  months pregnant.  The police call in Scotland Yard anyway, just to cover themselves, as two deaths, so close to each other have occurred at Nightingale House.  Dalgliesh arrives and does not believe this to be the case, but that both girls were murdered.  Some even try to convince him that Fallon was the one to poison Pearce and in a fit of guilt, committed suicide. 

James writes serious mysteries, but this one has a very hilarious scene in it that had me about falling off the couch with laughter.  Matheson, the Sargent who is working with Dalgliesh on this case is sent to interview an older woman who might have information relevant to the case.  She is about to go out to a special ballroom dance hosted by her class. To get the information he has to go as her partner.  It is lucky that he is a rather good ballroom dancer.  As the evening wears on, she refuses to give him information.  Then the spotlight dance comes, and she is the Silver Award winner.  He has had a few to drink and is ticked off at her, so he decides to have fun with the dance and mess around with it.  When he realizes how much this dance means to her, he tells her to start talking or she'll end up on the floor.  The more she talks, the better he dances.  I do not think I've ever seen a cop get information from someone this way before.

The more Dalgliesh investigates this crime, the more secrets he uncovers.  Recent ones, as well as ones from long ago.  Which ones are the important ones?  Was Pearce killed because of her blackmailing schemes and was Fallon killed by the father of her child, who may be the surgeon, a man she had an affair with her first year?  This house was already haunted by one ghost, no it seems two more have joined it.  Is the killer finished and will he join the dead too? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Star Wars Rebel Force #2: Hostage by Alex Wheeler

Ok, first off you may wonder why I'm reviewing a Juvenile book.  I checked it out and read it to Shelby and became quite obsessed with the story.  Some of you may even wonder why I read a 188 page Juvenile book to my five-year-old daughter.  The reason is simple.  We have read every easy and beginning reader book the library has on Star Wars and she wanted to read more.  It took me six weeks to get through the book and convince her to finish it, but I did because I wanted to know how it ended. 

This book, which I found out after I read it, is the second book in a series called Rebel Force (yes, its part of the "old canon") and takes place sometime after New Hope.  Princess Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie go to the sister (really more of an ugly step-sister) planet of Alderaan, Delaya.  Delaya is the opposite of the beautiful, glorious Alderaan.  It was where Alderaan kept it's factories and it was not a pretty place, but it was the only place for the refugees from Alderaan to go to once their planet had been blown up by the Empire. 

Leia is given a warm greeting and shown the nice places that the refugees have been set up in.  As they are walking through the city, Luke is kidnapped by an Alderaanian refugee who shows him the truth: they are being put in a warehouse and given little to eat or any kind of real care.  The Delayans have hated them and now they can do to the Alderaans what they want with no interference.  Luke convinces this man that if Leia knew, she would never allow it, and Leia is quite upset to find out this is going on.  However, she is also there recruiting for the Rebel Alliance and this is causing some of the Alderaans to take her hostage and give her to the Empire in exchange for a planet of their own.  They hate Leia for destroying their peaceful planet and bringing them into a war against the Empire. 

One of the most interesting characters in this book is a man who Leia knows as Fess Ilee, a toadie who hung out at his father's palace on Alderaan when she was growing up.  She despises him for being the kind of man who schmoozes and kisses up to power.  She has no idea who he really is.  Everyone knows that Luke had Obi-Wan on Tatoonie to look after him as he grew up and to make sure Vader never found him, but no one ever thinks about whether there was someone looking after Leia.  His name is Ferus Olin and he was once a Jedi Master who left the order at some point.  Obi-Wan and probably Yoda find him and have him watch over Leia.  He finds himself feeling as though she is his own daughter, but must never let her know who he really is, so he endures her hatred of him.  Once she grew up and became a Senator, he pretty much left her alone.  She was rather capable of taking care of herself, until the word comes that her ship was destroyed by the Empire and Bail Organa sends him to find out, so he's away when the planet blows up.

When Fess meets Luke and shakes his hand for the first time, they both are startled by sensing the Force in the other, even if Luke has no idea.  From Luke he finds out what he knew, but did not want to accept: that Obi-Wan is dead.  He realizes that these two offspring of Vader, possibly the last of the Jedi, must be trained in the ways of the Force and begins to wonder if he should say something, when he sees a vision of Obi-Wan telling him that it isn't time for them to know and if they were to begin to learn how to use the Force now, Vader might discover them.  So he keeps quiet.  If you want to read more about Ferus, the book Jedi Quest #1: The Way of the Apprentice by Jude Watson, tells more.  In this book, also a Juvenile book, is about an adventure Anakin as a Padawan to Obi-Wan has with Ferus and other Padawans on a mission.

After reading this book, I now know I need to read the first one to find out what everyone was doing before this book and to perhaps discover more about the elusive character X-7, whom when Ferus shakes his hand, notices that there is something off about him in the Force.  This character seems to be working for the Empire who wants to know who the pilot was that destroyed the Death Star and to kill him. 

This really is an excellent book to read, even if you are an adult, especially if you are a Star Wars fan.  You get a glimpse into Leia's childhood through both her eyes and Ferus's.  Its rather funny that Ferus sees Leia as being stronger in the Force than Luke who knows he is a Jedi and has had a bit of training from Obi-Wan.  She is just naturally a strong person, probably because of how and where she grew up and from being a Senator.  Its also interesting to find out what happened to the lost people of Alderaan and how they feel about their Princess and Senator.  I fully intend to read the rest of the books in this series, with or without, my daughter's ear.   

Monday, September 14, 2015

Act of Mercy by Peter Tremayne

Unfortunately, I missed the book before this one, The Monk Who Vanished, because I have the feeling something happened in it that was important to the Sister Fidelma series. This is the ninth book in the series and we find that Sister Fidelma, sister to the King of Cashel, a religieuse of the Celtic Church, and a dalaigh, or officer of the court (and the second highest degree you can get) is on board the ship, The Barnacle Goose, heading for what is modern-day Spain and the city of Iberia, where the Shrine of St. James is, in order to reflect upon her relationship with the Saxon monk, Eadulf, and the crisis of faith she is experiencing.  Among the group of pilgrims, the leader, Canair, does not show up in the morning when the ship leaves, because, unbeknownst to some of the pilgrims, she has been murdered at the Inn in Ardmore. 

Sister Muirgel takes over, since she sees herself as the next one in line due to her nobility.  When Fidelma comes aboard, the Captain, Murchad, recognizes her name, and therefore her rank and reputation as a dalaigh.  Fidelma wants to just be a Sister on a pilgrimage and asks that he not mention any of this to anyone.  Fidelma is to be bunked with Sister Muirgel, but when she arrives, the Sister is suffering horribly from sea sickness and Fidelma gives in and takes a room all by herself.  After a brutal storm their first night out, Muirgel is missing and a search of the ship fails to discover her, so it is assumed that she went overboard.  Now Cian, a man that Fidelma had an affair with ten years ago when she was a student that ended with him marrying another woman, sees himself as the one to take over.  Cian was a warrior in the High King's Army, until five years ago when an arrow that pierced his right arm, made it useless.  He felt he had no choice in life but to become a religieuse, even though he does not have a religious bone in his body. 

Sister Fidelma begins an investigation, upon the behest of the Captain, to uncover what happened to Sister Muirgel.  Wenbrit, a sailor on the ship, finds Sister Muirgel's robe with a cut in it and blood on it, which makes no sense if she went overboard.  Later, Sister Muirgel shows up in her room, dying from a knife wound, holding Sister Canair's crucifix in her hand, which she gives to Sister Fidelma. Brother Guss claims that the two were in love and that they had been in the room next door to Canair's at the Inn and heard her die.  After this happened, Guss tells Fidelma that Muirgel was terrified for her life, which is why she faked her death.

These are only two of the deaths that occur on this cursed ship that also endures being chased by Saxon pirates, fearful storms, and watching a ship crash on the rocks and only being able to save three of the men on board.  One of the men is Toca Nia who accuses Cian of some horrid war crimes.  After he dies, and Cian disappears, suspicion begins to fall on Cian, who also had love affairs with the two other dead women (but then Cian seems to have slept with most of the Sisters at the Abbey).  Fidelma really wishes that her friend Eadulf were there.  He is a Watson to her Holmes; a Captain Hastings to her Hercule Poirot.  He always notices something she misses or says something that just makes everything click into place.  This ship is not just one of death, but also of lust, as they all seem to have slept with each other.  Fidelma really struggles with this one.  She cannot seem to see the path to the truth and when attempts are made on her life, she realizes that she is dealing with a dangerous and possibly insane killer who has developed a taste for murder and will not stop unless Fidelma can uncover their identity in time. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sold Down the River by Barbara Hambly

This is the fourth Benjamin January novel in the series about the doctor/piano player who lives in New Orleans in the 1830s as a Free Man of Color.  This is perhaps, so far, one of her most serious and dangerous books in the series.  January has just been recently robbed and is in need of money, but that is not what ultimately makes him take on this job for the policeman Shaw.  January's former master, Simon Fourchet is having trouble on his sugar cane plantation, Mon Triomphe.  The slave's food has been poisoned, a butler murdered when he snuck a drink of Fourchet's liquor, and another slave killed in a fire in the mill.  There are voodoo marks everywhere and Fourchet believes there is the possibility of a slave revolt, but he is not entirely convinced and wants to hire January to uncover the truth.

After some convincing by his sister and Rose, he reluctantly agrees, mainly because there is a good chance that if something is not done, the slaves will be punished severely for this.  There had been a revolt in 1798 on Fourchet's family plantation, but most of the slaves were caught and killed.  So January leaves behind his Parisian French for the African patois of a field hand (there are many different dialects of French in the area).  He pretends to be his violin player friend Hannibal's personal slave.  Hannibal, who suffers from consumption, is invited to stay on Fourchet's plantation when his health takes a turn for the worse.  January, who was too young to work in the cane fields before being freed by his mother's lover, still remembers how things work on one, and is placed in the fields since they do not have enough hands.  It is hard work and January's tender, piano playing hands are soon blistered and bleeding and he is aching all over from working from sunup until dark.  It will take a while for him to recover and be able to play again at the winter balls, if he can survive this at all.

He makes friends and begins to find out information about the slaves, such as the relationship between Quashie and Jeanette, who is being forced to have sex with the evil overseer, who has it in for Quashie and blames him for anything that goes wrong on the plantation by having him severely whipped, as when the sugar cane knives go missing and are mostly destroyed.  On the plantation, women are given, in a sort of marriage, to male slaves in order to get more work out of them.  Kikki, for instance, is first given to Reuben, until she lets Madam Marie-Noel Fourchet, a sixteen-year-old cousin of the Doubrey's who own a large piece of land and have a complicated history and are upset at her for marrying Fourchet, who now has a chance of owning her father's plantation, Refuge, lets her marry Gilles, the murdered butler.  She is Fourchet's third wife, the other two having died.  The first gave birth to his eldest son, Robert, who was away in Paris with his annoying wife and children when the trouble first began.  The second son, Esteban, is the only surviving child of his mother. The others were believed to have been killed by the slave nanny.  Robert makes many overtures toward his step-mother and seems to have feelings for her that it appears she does not share.

Mohammad, the old blacksmith, provides January with information, including the whereabouts of the slaves when the various incidents occur.  It is indeed a true puzzle because it appears that a slave or former slave is causing the trouble.  But why?  Or maybe it is one of Fourchet's many enemies, which include Trader Jones who trades illegal items to slaves and others and is hated by everyone up and down the river.

January has Hannibal return to New Orleans and talk to Shaw about looking into Fourchet's will and his son's activities in New Orleans.  He is only supposes to gone a day, but when a couple of days pass, January becomes quite worried.  He has a signal he places on a post visible to the ships passing for Shaw to know that he is ok.  He places a different colored neckerchief for each day of the week.  When two slave cabins catch fire along with some other buildings, Fourchet is affected in a minor way by the smoke and needs to spend some time in bed.  With each day, however, he gets sicker and sicker.  Now January is terrified because the Ney brothers are in league with the Doubreys against Fourchet and the Ney brothers are known for grabbing any slave and selling them upriver and January is in danger of having this happen to him.  His only option is to take down the handkerchief and hope that Shaw gets the message and him and Hannibal return in time to save him. 

This is a dark novel that really explores the life of a slave on a cane plantation, which is the hardest type of plantation to work on.  You can actually get an idea of the complicated relationships between master and slave and that not all masters are good ones, like in Gone With the Wind, or evil, like in Uncle Tom's Cabin.  This, in my opinion is a truer account of a slave's life and how throughout, they manage to find happiness when and where they can, however fleetingly, and endure, no matter what they are put through.  This is also a story of the evil found in the hearts of humans that can lead one to consider and commit murder and other acts of violence.  This book is a true tour de force and a worthy read.   

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

This book is the eleventh in the Pink Carnation Napoleonic Wars spy series.  If you have not read any books in this series, I highly suggest you do.  They are thrilling, suspenseful, and the dialogue is razor sharp.  In this book, we hear about the story of Turnip Fitzhugh's sister, Sally.  Sally is in her second Season after graduating from boarding school and her friends Agnes and Lizzie are having their first.  The only problem is that as excited as Sally was to begin going to what she thought would be exciting parties is actually quite boring and her two closest friends have moved on without her. 

The talk of the Ton is the novel written by Miss Gwen, The Convent of Orsino, and people are seeing vampires, especially after, Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, has returned to the London home of his family.  Lucien has the brooding looks of Lord Byron and the sweetness and mysteriousness of Johnny Depp.  I absolutely adore him.  It is hard not to.  He has been absent for twelve years and everyone suspects that he is a vampire because he never leaves his home and is believed to stay awake at all hours.  Sally, a sensible creature, does not believe this story, as well as the ones that his family is cursed, he sacrifices chickens, and was chained up in an attic because he was mad.

Lucien, it turns out, was the one to discover his parents, his mother, a young woman from Martinique, and his older father, dead in what is called a "folly", which I believe is some sort of type of gazebo.  They had been poisoned by the bark of the Manzilla tree.  Lucien's mother was an avid botanist and his father was highly active in the House of Lords.  Many believed that his mother killed his father, then committed suicide.  After a few years at Eaton, he returns to the family country home, Hullingden, where his Uncle Henry is taking care of it for him until he is of age to do so himself.  His aunt hates him, because she wants to be a Duchess and his cousin, Hal, follows him around like a puppy.  At the age of fifteen, Lucien escapes to the colonies in search of his mother's family and finds her sister and stays on her plantation, plotting his vengeance on his parent's murders.

At a party, Lizzie dares Sally to go over to Lucien's garden and look in one of the windows and see what is going on.  Not one to back down from a challenge, she does, and meets a man who is very much flesh and blood, not a vampire.  The two will meet again at his sister Clarissa's coming out party.  Clarissa hates him for leaving her all those years ago.  While there, Lucien receives a note that promises information he will be interested in.  Sally is there when he gets it and insists on going with him because she believes it is a trap by some girl to get herself compromised and win a Duke.  When the two go out onto the balcony, they instead find a dead woman with a Manzilla blossom in her hands, his father's snuff box at her feet, and two drawn on "bite marks".  Sally convinces Lucien to leave at once before someone suspects him of the murder, and "discovers" the body herself.

Sally decides she must help Lucien, because she sees the way his family walks all over him and he just apologizes for it.  She has heard about his parents and  he agrees to accept her help, however unwillingly.  The flowers, of course, make Sally think of spies, especially after Uncle Henry tells Lucien that his mother was thought to be passing on information to the French.  The young woman turns out to be a stage actress and the director of the play is Lucien's old tutor, who mysteriously disappeared right after his parents' death and was suspected of possibly having an affair with Lucien's mother.  Love notes from an anonymous "protector" are found in her dressing room, but the director, Mr. Quinten, says she told him she was leaving as she had better prospects.  He believed that she had found another "protector". 

Soon the gang are all assembled at Sally's home, headed by Miss Gwen.  The flowers indicate that the person his mother may have been spying for is the infamous French masterspy, the Black Tulip.  Lucien has already gone through his parent's things at the London home, so they decide to fake a betrothal between Lucien and Sally in order to get Miss Gwen access to Hullinden, where she might find more information.  The more time Sally and Lucien spend together, the closer they become and the more they realize that maybe they do not want to end the engagement.  However, they have spies to chase, murderers to catch, and try to keep the police from executing Lucien for a crime he did not commit.

Sally is quick minded and has a sharp, witty tongue that always has to have the last word.  She also insists on helping people whether they want it or not.  Sally is a rare woman of her time in that she can take care of herself and is quite fearless and ready to flaunt, to an extent, the rules of society. Lucian is a sweet, good man who, as Sally points out, has been neglecting his duties for far too long and lets people treat him poorly, because he feels that somehow he deserves it.  It was an absolute delight to read the story of these two characters.  They fit so well together and understand each other in ways that no one else does.  I would say that this is my favorite of the Pink Carnation books, so far, but I tend to say that about all of them after I read them.  This book, though, was an excellent read and worthy of the series way beyond measure.  I am sure I will find myself reading it again, because once was not enough.