Don’t Look Back

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Regency-era London hid other worlds behind its facade of frill-filled shopping and glittering balls. Its darker sites included oppressed servants’ quarters, prostitutes’ hovels, and a crime-ridden warehouse area. Lavinia Lake, who has given up her mesmerism practice for the more hazardous profession of crime investigation, explores all these places, and more, in search of Celeste Hudson’s murderer.

It was rare enough for a gentlewoman of this era to follow any career, but Lavinia’s new venture meets more than the usual hurdles. Besides the innate dangers, she has to face client skepticism, dowagers’ disapproval, and the exasperating behavior of Tobias March, her business partner. Sexual desire simmers between the two, and Tobias is secretly proud of Lavinia’s independence. Still, he will not introduce her to his best informants, claiming a lady should not know underworld denizens. Needless to say, Lavinia manages to meet most of these sources anyway.

The Blue Medusa, a Romano-British bracelet said to give its owner paranormal powers, appears to be the key to the murder. But this object has gone missing. If she finds the bracelet, Lavinia can bait a trap for the murderer. Her inquiries take her into dusty antiquities stores and private collectors’ dens. In a tense climax, only a knife and pistol wielded by a madman loom between her and the Medusa.

Don’t Look Back is a sequel to Amanda Quick’s Slightly Shady (2001), which introduces the main characters. Readers who open it expecting a “regency romance” will be surprised, as the love story is only a secondary thread. Nor does the book go into detail about the manners of “the ton,” or the Roman artifacts which motivate the plot. It is a suspenseful mystery-thriller with an intriguing historical backdrop and unexpectedly complex characters. Following their adventures could become addictive.