Tobias and Lavinia (Don’t Look Back, 2002, etc.) take on the Memento-Mori Man.
In their third outing, Quick’s winning pair of Regency-era detectives (and sometime lovers) investigate a death at Beaumont Castle: Did the fat, lecherous squire fall off the parapets, shortly after he was seen chasing a housemaid through the endless corridors, or was he thrown? A robust man of 60, he was about to wed an heiress, age 17, and obviously had everything to live for. Distracted by the merriment of the evening’s masquerade, no one remembers much, and clues are precious few. Something, however, brings Tobias up short: an antique gold ring mounted with a miniature coffin that opens to reveal a tiny, grinning death’s head. Macabre tokens like these, known as mementos mori, were left at the scene of other unsolved murders—but years ago. Can it be that the infamous Memento-Mori Man is back? Tobias, though, knows for certain he’s dead. Tobias’s former friend Zachary Elland, a spy whom he’d trained as a government assassin during the Napoleonic Wars, committed suicide before it was revealed that he was the murderer-for-hire known only by this name. Or is there more than one Memento-Mori Man? Indeed, yes—though it’s also possible that the culprit could be a woman. Aspasia Gray, Zachary’s former lover, has received a death’s-head ring and believes she may be next. Lavinia, an independent young widow, is much put off by Aspasia’s interest in the handsome Tobias—and can’t he see that the woman is a heartless schemer, hardly as vulnerable as she claims? Not yet, he can’t. Bewigged suspects of various genders chase one another through London’s seamy side streets and glittering assemblages as the plot thickens a trifle, aided by an Artful Dodger type named Sweet Ned. Lavinia and Tobias put their heads (and certain other things) together as Quick, a.k.a. superselling suspenser Jayne Ann Krentz, never forgets the romance.
Not quite as sparkling as the first two in the series, but carefully crafted and still a pleasure.