“Slightly Shady”, “Don’t Look Back” and “Late for the Wedding” by Amanda Quick

As if a head for busi­ness and a nose for trou­ble aren’t enough to dis­tin­guish fierce­ly inde­pen­dent Lavinia Lake from the oth­er women of London’s fash­ion­able Clare­mont Lane, there is one more fea­ture to set her apart. Lavinia is also well versed in the prac­tice of mes­merism, an extra­or­di­nary gift that far sur­pass­es mere charm and phys­i­cal appeal. Nobody knows this bet­ter than the usu­al­ly cool­head­ed Tobias March, who seems to have fall­en hope­less­ly under her spell. For­tu­nate­ly for all, how­ev­er, Lavinia uses her pow­ers for good. And ever since a tragedy involv­ing one of her sub­jects, she has even retired them in favor of her work with Lake and March, a joint ven­ture pro­vid­ing “discreet pri­vate inquiries for indi­vid­u­als of quality.”

Mrs. Lake and Mr. March have a rocky first encounter: he is sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ram­pag­ing through the tiny shop Mrs. Lake and her niece oper­ate, all in an attempt to force them to leave and thus remove them from impend­ing dan­ger. Nev­er­the­less, they find rea­sons to con­tin­ue their rela­tion­ship, despite the fric­tion of their equal­ly strong per­son­al­i­ties. As these are romance nov­els, their rela­tion­ship also con­tin­ues to be fraught with unre­solved passion.

Part of that pas­sion and that fric­tion is due to the fact that Mrs. Lake is a tal­ent­ed mes­merist, although Mr. March is quite hes­i­tant to allow him­self to be placed under her mag­net­ic influ­ence for med­i­c­i­nal pur­pos­es, even though he is quick­ly falling under her cap­ti­vat­ing spell as much as she is falling under his. How­ev­er, in her new occu­pa­tion per­form­ing pri­vate inquiries, Mrs. Lake finds his com­pa­ny and her mes­mer­ic pow­ers advan­ta­geous, and not always in the expect­ed manner.

“Slightly Shady”

Mrs. Lake does not want to return to her mes­merism prac­tice upon return­ing to Lon­don after her encounter with Mr. March, after a tragedy involv­ing a for­mer patient and the reper­cus­sions from the patien­t’s hus­band. Instead, she is drawn into Mr. March’s inquiry into the exis­tence and loca­tion of a diary that relates the doings of one of the prin­ci­pal lead­ers of an inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion, a part of the impend­ing dan­ger that threat­ened Mrs. Lake ear­li­er. That leads to a com­pli­cat­ed inves­ti­ga­tion also involv­ing a death threat against a promi­nent lady of soci­ety, miss­ing pros­ti­tutes and mur­der. Only upon the final con­fronta­tion with the mur­der­er does she resort to her tal­ent for mes­merism, using her pen­dant as a focus to entrance the mur­der­er to induce them to gloat about their past crimes, as well as dis­tract them from killing Mrs. Lake.

“Don’t Look Back”

Mrs. Lake encoun­ters Doc­tor Howard Hud­son, an old friend of her par­ents, both of whom were expe­ri­enced mes­merists, him­self a pro­fes­sion­al mes­merist as well. He is in Lon­don to fur­ther his research into mes­merism, specif­i­cal­ly, in search of the fabled Blue Medusa, an amulet leg­en­dar­i­ly reput­ed to give the wear­er pow­er­ful mes­mer­ic abil­i­ties. With him is his new wife Celeste, who has her own inter­ests and her own plans involv­ing the Blue Medusa. How­ev­er, when Celeste is found mur­dered and the Blue Medusa is dis­cov­ered miss­ing, Mrs. Lake and Mr. March are charged with inves­ti­gat­ing both crimes, only to find a web of mur­der and mes­merism behind the theft and the crimes that fol­low. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is the pres­ence of Lord Pelling, the man whose wife com­mit­ted sui­cide under Mrs. Lake’s care, in Lon­don unexpectedly.

Mes­merism is a cen­tral ele­ment of the nov­el here. With­out giv­ing too much away, it appears through­out the nov­el in a mul­ti­tude of cir­cum­stances and by a num­ber of indi­vid­u­als includ­ing Mrs Hud­son, includ­ing, as it does in all of these nov­els, with Mrs. Lake using her mes­mer­ic tal­ents in con­fronting the murder.

Notes

Mrs. Lake inves­ti­gates a mes­merist under­cov­er by com­plain­ing of “fem­i­nine dis­com­forts”. The device the mes­merist tries to employ in relief while she is osten­si­bly mes­mer­ized is essen­tial­ly a mechan­i­cal dil­do: whether this device as described was authen­tic is not known but it cer­tain­ly would be typ­i­cal of the period.

“Late for the Wedding”

Mrs. Lake and Mr. March are by now well known by cer­tain very promi­nent indi­vid­u­als and are sig­nif­i­cant­ly an item such that they are invit­ed to a week­end out­ing at a noble’s estate. How­ev­er, the appear­ance of the wife of an old friend turned ene­my seek­ing the aid of Mr. March and an “acci­dent” at the out­ing involve them both in a mur­der mys­tery involv­ing the infa­mous Memen­to-Mori Man, a famous killer for hire thought retired long ago, or, pos­si­bly, some­one emu­lat­ing his work. As in the first nov­el of the series, the sto­ry under­plays Mrs. Lake’s mes­mer­ic tal­ents until the very end where she employs them to dis­tract the mur­der until aid arrives.


Notes

  • Aman­da Quick is the pseu­do­nym of Jayne Ann Krentz, a pop­u­lar New York Times best­selling author of peri­od, para­nor­mal and peri­od para­nor­mal romances.

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