GARDEN OF LIES - Amanda Quick
G.P. Putnam's Sons
London - Late 19th Century
Surviving a scandal, Mrs. Ursula Kern transformed herself and started the Kern Secretarial Agency. A secretary with knowledge of stenography and typing is one of the few respectable jobs women can hold, and over the last two years, her secretaries have made a living wage while increasing the prestige of Ursula's agency. Ann Clifton was one of the first secretaries hired. Ann's housekeeper found her dead body. Ursula doesn't believe her friend committed suicide, especially when she finds a note Ann left in stenographer's code. The note leads Ursula to find some objects that launch her into a murder investigation, which will start with Ann's last client, Lady Fulbrook. In order to this, she must first tell her current client, Slater Roxton, that she will need, temporarily at least, to terminate her work cataloging his archeological artifacts.
Slater only returned to England two months ago upon the death of his father, Lord Roxton. Slater is Roxton's oldest son but illegitimate. His father left his estate to Slater's two much younger half-brothers. That didn't bother Slater, he has his own money; however, his father left him in charge of the estate. Then, his mother introduced Ursula Kern to him. Upon first sight of the independent woman, he felt something he hadn't felt for years, not since Fire Island. On an archeological exploration with his best friend, a rockslide buried Slater alive in a cave on the island. He escaped, but circumstances left him stranded on the island for a year. Now the scandal sheets in London run bizarre stories about his reclusive behavior and speculate his experience left him unhinged. The scandalous gossip holds a hint of truth. Slater is a mysterious man, both intelligent and haunted. He refuses to lose Ursula, so he joins her investigation.
GARDEN OF LIES contains many realistic yet unique characters that are entertaining to meet. Lillian Lafontaine, former actress and Slater's mother, is a particularly charming character. Other fun facts about the era, especially ones about women's sexuality, add interest. Both Slater and Ursula have endured dark hours, reinvented themselves, and survived, so they are up to the task they have undertaken. They follow a very convoluted search. One suspicious death leads them to a series of murders. A mystery beginning with suspected adultery leads to a dangerous drug. Slater and Ursula's investigation takes the reader on a curious journey, and a growing interest between them begins a subtle romance that explodes in many ways. All this earns GARDEN OF LIES a Perfect 10.