Tuesday, January 26, 2016

'Til Death Do Us Part- Amanda Quick

'Til Death Do Us Part- Amanda Quick
Berkley Publishing Group
Advanced Reader Copy: Release Date April 19, 2016 

Synopsis:  In this all new novel of deadly obsession Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—each engraved with her initials.  Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels.  But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker...

Amanda Quick begins this book with a note to readers that “things have changed in my Amanda Quick world”. Like her recent Secret Sisters (written as Jayne Ann Krentz), Til Death Do Us Part is edgier, more suspenseful than earlier books.  However, long-time readers shouldn’t worry that this means drastic or unwelcome changes to one who is, for me, a go-to author under all of her pen names. 

Til Death is a fast paced mystery featuring one of Victorian England’s more unnerving trends: memento mori items.  Mourning jewelry is made even creepier by being sent to the dearly departed before they die.  When Calista Langley finds a mourning ring with her initials on it in her bedroom, not the first “gift” of its kind, she’s disturbed enough to look for help.  Mystery writer Trent Hastings figures with his research in creating his popular detective Clive Stone, he can help.  And, much like Richard Castle in ABC’s Castle, his ability to look at situations from a slightly different point of view leads to figuring out the way the story should be told. 

Like most of Quick’s mysteries, we are given a large enough suspect pool that, while we are sure all of them are “bad guys”, figuring out THE “bad guy” keeps us guessing until the very end.  I always find it very satisfying trying to figure out why certain characters can or can’t be the main villain.  As with her other books, peeling back the layers of motives and dangerous obsessions kept me glued to the book until the last page.

Quick’s strong characters are once again engaging, enjoyable, and realistic.  Calista is a woman both willing and able to chart her own path and create a career when society still disapproved of women having careers.  Trent has come to accept that “everyone’s a critic” and while his name opens doors to getting vital information in the guise of “research”, everyone he talks to feels free to share their thoughts on his latest book.  Which would be more annoying to an author: today’s readers who have to wait until they’ve read the entire book to critique it but then have an endless web platform to discuss the book (the irony is not lost on me here!) or the Victorian author who serialized his book- meaning people could critique new chapters every week and worry about the direction a book may be going? 

Personally, I don’t think a look at Til Death  is complete without a nod to Quick’s wonderful sense of humor, often in some of the most unexpected places.  The business of funerals, funeral items, and mourning items included so-called “safety bells”- designed so that the person in the coffin could ring them if they were accidentally buried when not quite dead yet.  A truly disturbing gift for a murderous stalker to send someone- especially when it has your initials already on it! But you have to see the humor in the proprietor only guaranteeing the bell will work with the specially designed coffin it is intended to be sold with.  Personally, I thought the bell was even creepier than the mourning ring that was actually left on Calista’s bed, but the bell redeemed itself in a particularly satisfying way at the end, possibly also making it my favorite piece.

Another excellent book by Amanda Quick: a must read for her long time followers and an excellent introduction to newer readers.

Warning: As with All Krentz/Quick/Castle books, do not start this book at night if you have to get up early in the morning. You will find yourself unable to put it down!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

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