Sunday, November 1, 2015

An Intrepid Heroine in a Glittering Era

Ashley Weaver 
Minotaur Books
October 13, 2015

Death Wears a Mask begins about two months after the events of Murder at the Brightwell. Milo and Amory Ames have retired to their country estate, mostly to avoid the press, but also to try to repair their faltering marriage. Things on the relationship front seem to be proceeding well and they hope the tabloid furor has died down. However, when you are young, rich and beautiful in 1930s London, the press is always on hounding you. Milo's well-deserved reputation as a playboy doesn't help.

Upon their return to London, one of the first invitations they receive is from Lady Serena Barrington, an old friend of Amory's mother. Their presence is requested at a dinner party. When they arrive, they encounter a group that is only somewhat familiar. The group includes a woman of mystery, a voluble nephew of the Barrington's, two sisters, a tennis star, a highly placed foreign office official and his American wife, and the very dodgy Lord Dunmore. Lord Dunmore delights in scandalizing Society at every opportunity. Serena Barrington has a personal agenda, however; there have been a series of jewel thefts occurring at her dinner parties. All the guests at the dinner party were also guests at the parties in question. She asks Amory to investigate the thefts, based upon her success at the Brightwell Hotel. When her old acquaintance, Inspector Jones, now of Scotland Yard, also asks for her help she accedes. After all, Amory can go places in Society where Inspector Jones cannot. When a murder occurs at a masquerade ball hosted by the dodgy Lord Dunmore, Amory is committed to the investigation fully. Everyone at this particular ball seems to be wearing a mask, both literally and figuratively. Things are not good on the homefront, though; Milo appears to be embroiled in more playboy behavior with a French actress.

The fact that I enjoy this series so much is quite a tribute to Ashley Weaver's writing chops. Everyone in Amory's world seems to be living useless lives of shopping, lunching and partying. No one even seems to be aware that there is a world depression, not to mention events in the rest of Europe at the time. In spite of that, I like Amory quite a lot. She is reckless at times but dogged in her search for answers. I can't find the same liking for Milo who seems to be determined to hurt Amory with his seeming philandering and poor excuses. I have my pet theories about Milo and while he redeems himself somewhat at the end of Death Wears a Mask, I am not convinced! The relationship tension is a plus, though; will she kick him to the curb or will he come clean at last?

Death Wears a Mask is a very enjoyable look at an era long gone; one in which there were idle aristocrats who lived lives of complete leisure. No wonder they got up to so much hanky-panky! I also have to give Minotaur kudos for the beautiful, evocative covers on both books in the series.

RATING-4 Stars

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