The Lady Killer
The title of The Lady Killer can be taken literally: the novel tells the story of Nicole Beauvoire, an assassin code named Scorpion and working in France for the English. Nicole has thus far killed nine men. She is very good at what she does, though she knows she is doomed.
Daniel McCurren has been sent by the Foreign Office to warn Scorpion that a trap has been set for the assassin’s capture and to bring “him” back home to England. Nicole leads him on a wild goose chase before he figures out that she is the lethal Scorpion, which only makes him more determined that she should escape to safety.
Nicole doesn’t view England as “safety” – in fact, just the opposite, for there is a tragedy in her past which lead to her life as an assassin and which convinces her that she will be killed if she returns to England. If she’s going to die, she figures, she’d rather do it on the job, ridding the world of one more sadistic, but powerful, man. Her target this time is Joseph LeCoeur, the Minister of Police in Paris, who runs his own network of assassins.
Since Nicole insists on doing the job, Daniel decides to remain in Paris and help her, after which he will figure out a way to get to out of the country. Daniel is inexperienced in espionage, and while he is not quite bumbling, he is not much help either. Nicole is definitely a pro and has very little patience with him. She also recognizes his innate honor and goodness and so is loath to involve him in her soul-killing work.
Nicole is, as you might expect, a tormented heroine, and one with cause. Her backstory is slowly revealed and by the time it all comes out, you understand why she chose this path. The book opens in riveting fashion with Nicole having just completed an assignment and we see her efficiency, ingenuity and skill in extracting herself from a bad situation, only to collapse in tears back in her own apartment as she viciously tries to scrub her body – and her soul – clean. She contemplates suicide, once again, but rejects it not only because she believes in the justness of the cause, but more importantly, because she knows she would only be replaced and then some other poor person would be condemned to this half-life.
Daniel is a much less complicated person. He was disappointed in love a couple of years ago and has been melancholy and fairly aimless since. Nicole is intriguing, stimulating, and makes him feel more alive than he has in years. He is in awe, and a bit frightened, of her obvious skills and one of the things I liked most about him was his acceptance of them. There was none of that “now, let the man take care of you and this pesky little assignment, little lady” stuff going on. He is willing to follow her lead, though he is not above scheming to get her out of France when it is over. He falls in love with Nicole fairly quickly, longs to heal her, and believes that he can if she’d only let him. For her part, Nicole is bemused, and then smitten, with this big, braw, bonny Scotsman with the Body of Death, whose bulky muscles Saxon describes in loving detail.
All of the main action takes place in Paris, but there were a few characters in London who intruded on the narrative to talk and worry about Daniel’s disappearance. These scenes added nothing to story and I assumed were only there to seed the next book in the series. Reading the excerpt at the end of the book proved me correct, which just annoyed me more. And Saxon consistently got the unmarried women’s titles wrong, calling them “Lady Lastname” when it should be “Lady Firstname.” I see that this was a complaint by the AAR reviewer about Saxon’s last book and it is still incorrect in the excerpt I read for the next book. You’d think that by the third book, the author or someone at Berkley would have fixed that.
But, despite these problems, I can recommend The Lady Killer. I really appreciated the unusual heroine and setting of Napoleon’s Paris, with an exciting “oh, my goodness, how are they going to get out of that?!” finish.