Adam Hardesty has a serious problem. The secrets of his past are in danger of being exposed, and in the course of investigating his would-be blackmailer, he discovers the dead body of a prominent psychic. To make matters worse, her house has been torn apart, and the diary containing Adam's secrets is missing. His only lead is a list of the psychic's last visitors. The most likely suspect is a woman named Mrs. Caroline Fordyce, whom he confronts in her parlour, only to discover an inconvenient attraction to the beautiful young widow. Alarmed by Adam's insinuations and questions, Caroline concludes that she must conduct her own investigation- if she can discover the true killer, Adam will have no reason to expose her connection to the dead psychic, which would cause a scandal she and her aunts could ill-afford. Besides, her life has been boringly uncomplicated for too long, and the exciting tension she feels around Adam presents a welcome alternative to her mundane daily routine. But as Caroline and Adam journey deeper into the shadowy world of psychics, mediums and con artists, they find that the only ones they can count on are each other.
Those who have enjoyed Quick's popular Regency mysteries featuring Lavinia Lake and Tobias March (Late for the Wedding) may find some pleasure in this Victorian romance/mystery, but others, particularly fans of Quick's earlier works (Mistress, etc.), will feel shortchanged by its weak plotting. Caroline Fordyce, who writes a popular fiction serial, and mysterious gentleman Adam Hardesty make a likable couple, but since virtually no obstacles stand in the way of their union, there's little suspense in watching them come together after only a few heated kisses. Both skeptics, the pair become involved in the Victorian craze for mediums and all things spiritualist after Adam stumbles across a murdered medium and finds a list of names, with Caroline's figured prominently. Alas, there are only two viable suspects, and Quick's sleight of hand is scant. Her characters are given to chunks of exposition that reveal the mechanics of the plot. (For example, a medium delivers a convenient monologue in an empty room.) Despite these flaws, this book remains a pleasant enough diversion, even if it pales in comparison to the author's best work. Some readers may have hoped that Quick's recent change of publishers heralded a renewed energy in her writing, but this novel feels like more of the same.