The Perfect Poison, by Amanda Quick

>> Sunday, November 08, 2009

TITLE: The Perfect Poison
AUTHOR: Amanda Quick

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Victorian England
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: Part of the Arcane Society series

REASON FOR READING: I always get to Quick's books, sooner or later

Victorian London holds many secrets. But none are so closely guarded as those of the shadowy Arcane Society. In her suspenseful new novel, New York Times-bestselling author Amanda Quick delves into this underworld of passion, greed, and powers that lie beyond this realm . . .

Plagued by rumors that she poisoned her fiancé, Lucinda Bromley manages to live on the fringes of polite society, tending her beloved plants-and occasionally consulting on a murder investigation. For the notorious botanist possesses a unique talent: She can detect almost any type of poison, especially ones that have their origins in the botanical kingdom.

But the death of a lord has shaken Lucinda to her core. At the murder scene, she picks up traces of a poison containing a very rare species of fern. So rare, in fact, that only one specimen exists in all of England-and it was stolen from her conservatory just last month.

To keep her name out of the inquest and to find the murderer, Lucinda hires fellow Arcane Society member Caleb Jones who runs a psychical investigation agency. A descendant of the founder of the Society, Jones is very skillful at protecting its secrets-and frighteningly good getting at the truth. Immediately, Lucinda senses both a raw power and an undeniable intensity in the imposing man.

But as a nearly overwhelming desire blooms between Caleb and Lucinda, they are drawn into the dark heart of a deadly conspiracy that can be traced to the early days of the Arcane Society -and to a legacy of madness that could plunge Caleb into the depths of his own tortured soul...
The Perfect Poison tells the story of notorious suspected poisoner Lucinda Bromley and of Caleb Jones, the founder of the Jones detective agency that has featured in all the Arcane Society novels, both historical and contemporary.

Ever since her fiance was found poisoned, botany talent Lucinda Bromley has find herself under suspicion and ruined, as far as society is concerned. This actually gives her some freedoms, like being able to assist a detective who happens to be a member of the Arcane Society whenever a potential poisoning case comes up. Lucinda's talent allows her to detect the psychic auras of all kinds of plant-related substances, even to the point of being able to detect individual components of a potion. This is very useful in determining exactly what the victim has ingested, especially considering only very few tests for poison exist at the time the action is set.

It is while Lucinda is helping out her detective friend that finds cause to seek out Caleb Jones. Lucinda realises that the victim in her latest case was killed with a poison containing a very rare plant, one, in fact, she and her botanist father brought back from an expedition in the Amazon jungle. That plant was stolen from her conservatory quite recently, and since it was very likely her specimen was the only one in England, Lucinda fears she might come under suspicion.

How anyone without her particular talent would have detected the plant, much less know it was a plant she had in her conservatory, I never really understood, but be that as it may, Lucinda decides to ask Caleb Jones to investigate the case and find the real poisoner, before blame falls on Lucinda herself.

Caleb thinks having to deal with clients is the only bad part of being an investigator, but Lucinda is different. He's eager to take her case, and not just because he quickly realises it's linked to his ongoing pursuit of the secret cabal that's been mucking about with the dangerous Founder's Formula (see all the previous books in the series; the secret cabal and the Founder's Formula have been an ongoing issue -and a pretty boring one, at that!). For all that he and Lucinda bicker, there's a definite connection there, one that makes him regret more than ever the fact that over the years, Jones men with his particular talent have invariable gone insane.

I think this one was a bit better than previous Arcane Society installments, mainly because the tedius plotting and planning of the secret cabal was a bit more unobtrusive. What was there was old-hat and repetitive (yet again, we get that scene where hero and heroine break into the house of a suspect and find a dead body. It's in every single Quick book, I think), and the balance between suspense and romance did lean more towards suspense than it used to in those vintage Quick books that put her in my favourites list, but less than in previous books, and we did spend less time in the villains' POV.

And the romance was good. Very good. Quick excels at showing the intimacy and sense of connection between her hero and heroine, and this was very definitely the case here. You really get what it is Caleb sees in Lucinda and what she sees in him. You also get, especially from Caleb, a sense of the total need and craving he feels for what being with Lucinda gives him.

There's also a secondary romance that's nice, if unexciting, and some good secondary characters, but really, it was all about the romance for me.



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