The Lady Has a Past
The Lady Has a Past – the fifth book in Amanda Quick’s Burning Cove series – is a fast-paced, lively mystery set in California in the 1930s, full of ambiance and clever plot twists. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and it can be read as a standalone, but I plan on checking out the earlier books too. Based on this one, I’m betting they’ll make great vacation reads.
Lyra Brazier is on her first assignment for Kirk Investigations when she stumbles upon a husband trying to drown his wife. When the enraged husband sees Lyra, he climbs out of the pool and stalks towards her, intending to kill her and then finish killing his wife. Quick-thinking Lyra grabs a golf club lying by the pool and knocks the husband unconscious. When the police arrive on the scene, the man is dead. With such a dramatic start to her new career, Lyra is not sure she’s cut out to be a private investigator. Her boss, Raina Kirk and Raina’s love interest, the powerful Luther Pell, aren’t sure either. But when Raina mysteriously disappears from Burning Cove the next day, Lyra is determined to step into her new role and find out what happened to Raina.
Simon Cage is living a double-life. By day, he is an antique bookseller but by night, he uses his paranormal talents to help his friend Luther Pell solve mysteries. He is in Burning Cove hoping for some relaxing time and some fun with a sophisticated, reckless, experienced divorcée. When Raina disappears, Luther calls Simon to help with the investigation. Luther, Simon, and Lyra search Raina’s apartment for clues, finding old newspaper clippings documenting the disappearance of a woman years ago (could this be the mysterious Raina?) and a note with the name of a beauty spa, the Labyrinth Springs Hotel, scrawled on it.
Simon and Lyra decide to head to Labyrinth Springs, posing as newlyweds. Soon after arriving, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems at the spa. Now they just need to find Raina before it’s too late and avoid being the next victims of a madman – or is it a madwoman?
Lyra is my kind of heroine; smart, funny, confident, a team-player. Her unique investigative talent comes from her ability to get people to talk. Simon is the opposite. He is not a people person, being more suspicious and introverted by nature. He has the extra-sensory talent of being able to sense the emotions of a person by touching an object they recently touched or entering a room they’ve recently vacated. It’s a handy talent for an investigator. Simon is a delightful hero – looking like a quiet professor-type but all sleek and powerful underneath. He’s got some interesting baggage that is fun to watch Lyra unpack with him, and the pair have a good rapport from the start. Lyra isn’t the gay divorcée Simon was looking for, but the attraction and mutual respect between the two blossoms into a gratifying romance with well-written love scenes.
There are lots of twists and turns in The Lady Has a Past, and just when you think you know what’s going on, Ms. Quick throws another fact or character into the action. Usually this would bother me – I like a mystery without last minute surprises – but I think the quick turns in this book were part of its charm. It was like watching an old Hollywood movie from the 1930s where new information or a new villain walks onto the stage every few scenes. It keeps you guessing to the last page. My only complaint was that things veered a little off course in the last few chapters muddying the ending a bit.
The Lady Has a Past will appeal to fans of whodunits and historical mystery – especially those set in glamorous 1930s California.
Note: This book contains mention of sexual assault and attempted rape.