Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15421-4
Paranormal Romance, 2014 (Reissue)
Okay, so now it becomes clear that the Ladies of Lantern Street mentioned in the title of the series (of which The Mystery Woman is the second book) is not about kick-ass prostitutes or even prostitutes with scary telekinetic powers. No, it’s about the psychical women – not to be confused with “psychotic women” – who work for the “private inquiry” agency Flint & Marsh, who are run by psychical women too. It’s like the author’s Arcane Society, I guess, only with ten times the estrogen. I always assumed that starting a new series means doing something different from the previous series, but then again, this is Amanda Quick. She doesn’t exist in the same context as “something different for a change”.
Beatrice Lockwood was once a clairvoyant, using her genuine psychical powers to make a living under the wing of her mentor Dr Roland Fleming, until Roland was murdered by someone called the Bone Man – don’t laugh – and Beatrice decided to go underground. Today, she is an employee of Flint & Marsh, and when the story opens, she is a chaperone hired by her charge’s grandmother who suspects that the charge’s suitor is up to no good. Well, he is up to no good, and Beatrice has to pull a gun on that man. Fortunately, she is spared of having to shoot by our hero, Joshua Gage, who shows up just in time to do his manly thing and establish himself as the man of the hour. They meet again when he shows up to accuse her of blackmailing his sister and insist that she help him look into this matter. They soon find themselves in a mystery that is closely linked to Jonah’s past, one that involves dead bodies, Egyptian rituals, and worse.
For once, the mystery actually keeps me intrigued. Usually, the author’s mysteries are perfunctory by-the-number yawns – dead body, hero and heroine talk to suspects, locate possible suspect only to find him dead, villain holds heroine hostage and blabs everything, hero kills villain, the end. Here, however, there are some interesting layers to be discovered. Jonah has some Blood Brothers thing going on with the villain, and there is a lot of chest-thumping about the conflicts that came between the brotherhood of manliness. The whole thing is quite dramatic. Mind you, the villain still blabs everything to the heroine in the showdown, a set-up that is as awful as those in the author’s previous books, but at least there is some sympathetic motive driving the villainy here. The hero even pulls a Batman at times, where he’s like, “I have the darkness inside me too – I could have been like the villain, how emo!”
Now, there’s no escaping the fact that the hero is another That Guy and the heroine is another That Girl. We have all come across them before in the author’s previous books. He’s convinced that he’s incapable of deeper passions, she thinks she’s smarter than she actually is, and with this being a paranormal romance, the author just drops phrases and buzzwords without explaining what they really are. This story is, in many ways, pretty much another retread of the path that the author took the Arcane Society books down several dozen times over. The romance is also pretty watered down, so much so that when the characters suddenly decide that they are in love, I can only nod and think, “How nice, but tell that to someone who cares.”
The Mystery Woman is basically another Amanda Quick book, but it stands out from previous efforts in that the plot here is a little bit more than another “Here, dead body – now buy the book!” throwaway affair from the author. I’m not convinced that it stands out enough to make this book worth buying, but here are some cookies to the author for making the effort.