Who are the Ladies Amateur Sleuth Society: Four unconventional beauties banding together to unravel real-life mysteries?
Four best friends past the age of twenty with no marital prospects and nothing better to occupy their time?
Lady Amelia Watersfield's lighthearted detecting club becomes more than simply an intriguing diversion when her father's priceless Egyptian artifact is stolen under his very nose. Now the game is afoot in earnest -- and Amelia nearly swoons to discover the detective assigned to "assist" her is a handsome, brilliant, and breathtaking investigator who might as well be a young Sherlock Holmes himself!
Inspector Colin Brindley has no interest in encouraging a meddling beauty who imagines herself Watson to his Holmes. But Amelia is as sharp-witted and brave as she is lovely -- and in their wild hunt for an elusive thief, Colin's heart may end up being the precious object that's gotten truly purloined.
DeHart's light historical romance is a sweet if unsatisfying morsel, featuring familiar characters caught up in a bloodless whodunit. Enthralled by the fictional Sherlock Holmes, Victorian aristocrat Lady Amelia Watersfield has recruited three reluctant friends to form the Ladies' Amateur Sleuth Society, meeting weekly to "unravel mysteries by ferreting out secrets at all costs." The society gets its first case when Amelia's widowed father, the kindly but feebleminded Lord Robert, discovers a beloved antique bust missing. When her father calls in private investigator Colin Brindley, Amelia is determined, despite Colin's protests, to become Watson to his Holmes. The premise is promising, but sadly falls flat; for lack of real stakes, the mystery drags, and for all the Sherlock references, Colin's sleuthing ability rivals Scooby Doo's. Fortunately, far more of the book (the first in a series) is devoted to the duo's love affair, at turns competitive, comical and sexy. If one can believe a 19th century English lord would allow his daughter to weekend unchaperoned with a young bachelor, the ensuing sex scenes are steamy enough to satisfy while awaiting the next clue. (Mar.)
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February 28, 2006
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Excerpt from A Study in Scandal by Robyn DeHart
"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data."
A Scandal in Bohemia
"She's gone! Oh, good heavens, she's gone!"
Amelia jumped at her father's yell. She ran as swiftly as she could to her father's study. He stood in the middle of the room wringing his hands.
"Father," she said, her voice labored from her exertion. "Who's gone?"
"Oh, Amelia, it's dreadful. I came in here to work, you know how I do each morning. Come in, read the paper, have some tea, make some notes in my journal -- everything was as it should be, but as I got up to pour a second cup of tea, which you know is my custom to do, I just happened to move the tea tray over to the bookshelf and then I realized she was gone."
"Yes, Father, but who is gone?"
Amelia spun around to the table where the antique usually sat and, precisely as he said, the piece was missing. "I'm positive there is a logical explanation. Let us retrace your steps."
Her father waved his hands about so frantically, it looked as though he might take flight. "My steps are the same as always, dear girl, there was nothing different about this morning save the fact that my prize possession is missing. We must call the authorities. Report a burglary."
"Is anything else missing?"
Amelia took a quick scan of the room. It was hard to decipher if anyone had rifled through anything, as the room was always rather messy, with papers and books spread about. Today was no different. Six books were piled on top of her father's desk and two maps lay unrolled on the floor. The few other artifacts he kept in his office remained in their places. It was curious indeed.
"I do not think so, but I have not looked around. I only just discovered she was missing. Oh, perhaps everything is gone." He grabbed the sides of his face. "My entire collection."
"Father, please sit before you have a fainting spell. You look quite pale."
"Yes, yes, you're right. I am feeling a tad light-headed." He allowed her to lead him to his chair, but once seated he shook his head firmly. "But you should know, girl, that men do not have fainting spells. We have a much stronger constitution than you women do."
"Of course." It was not an accurate statement, for she knew firsthand that her father had fainted in the past. That time when she'd cut her finger and at the first sight of blood, he'd fallen over. Or the time he nearly dropped the ancient Greek vase on the dining room table. He was sensitive about things, but he'd always claimed he'd simply dozed off. There was no sense in arguing with him.
"Take heart, Papa, it looks as though not all is lost. I believe Monsieur Pitre returned your vase, and it's all cleaned up."
Her father nodded. "Yes, he brought it by last night." He stood suddenly. "Authorities, Amelia, we must contact them straightaway. Oh, this is dreadful. Poor Nefertiti."
"I will do so right now. You sit still and try to calm yourself and I will soon discover what has happened to her."
Ah, a mystery right in her own home. She nearly giggled with delight. Despite the fact that it was wrong to enjoy her father's misfortune, she secretly hoped for the opportunity to discover the truth behind Nefertiti's disappearance. Amelia was quite clever when it came to solving the mysteries in the Sherlock stories -- surely this wouldn't be vastly different.
Two hours later, the authorities proved not so helpful. They had sent an officer over to investigate, but there was no evidence someone had actually broken into the home. And no evidence that a statue had even been in this office, aside from Amelia and her father's word. As the authorities saw it, no crime had been committed. Amelia had been instructed to contact them should any additional evidence appear.
"We shall discern this on our own, Father, we do not need the police."
"You are quite right, my girl." Her father's features wrinkled as he pondered the situation, then his face broke into a smile.