The Secrets of a Scoundrel
I can never decide what to think of spy novels set in historical England. On the one hand, you have authors like Joanna Bourne who craft rich novels full of intrigue. On the other, you have novels about people who are seriously unprepared to be a spy—like Virginia, Lady Burke.
Virginia, or Gin as she likes to be known, is the daughter of the famous spymaster Virgil. Virgil found and trained young boys in the ways of the Order, a secret organization spying for and protecting Britain. While none of Virgil’s boys ever knew he had a daughter, Gin was always well aware of and thrilled by their existence. Now, as an adult, she is utterly thrilled to be working with one of her father’s agents on an epic quest to bring down the Bacchus Bazaar, a biennial black market auction of all manner of illicit goods.
Nick, Lord Forrester, is certainly less excited than Gin to be on another quest. He won’t complain, though, as Gin broke him out of the Order’s prison in order to obtain his help. As far as Nick is concerned, anything that takes him away from the prison is a good thing, and if it comes with a beautiful woman as a bonus then all the better.
Unsurprisingly, the quest Nick and Gin are on turns out to be a more serious matter than Gin expected. Before long they find themselves in the middle of a ring of cutthroats and thieves all bent on harming them and thwarting their attempts to retrieve a certain parcel of Gin’s. Then Gin gets kidnapped, her son shows up in Paris, having followed the pair, and Nick’s world turns upside down. Nothing goes as simply as Gin claimed it would.
This naïveté on the part of Gin was one of my biggest problems with the book. Her fifteen-year-old son Phillip is insatiably curious about the Order, but she refuses to countenance the thought of him joining it and constantly being in danger. At the same time, she apparently loves nothing better than running off on investigations of her own, even to places as dangerous as the Bacchus Bazaar. It bothered me that she could be realistic about the dangers of spying when considering her son, and yet still assume that she was invulnerable.
The reason that this book is getting a C+ rather than the C- Gin merits is simple: Nick. His expertise and realistic emotions balanced out Gin. He cautions her about spying, because he understands how dangerous it actually is. There is also a depth to his emotions that is missing in Gin’s. He was essentially abandoned by his mother, at least emotionally, and this makes it difficult for him to trust that Gin could actually look at him and want him. He’s vulnerable, he’s cautious—where Gin is impetuous and naïve, Nick is her antithesis, preferring to act methodically and view the world through a cynical lens.
Overall, I will simply say that this latest Inferno Club novel was a good romp. While it might not have been the intricate, detailed spy novel that I most enjoy, it managed to be fun nonetheless. Gin wasn’t my favorite person, true, but I did enjoy Nick. If you’re ever stuck inside some rainy day looking for something to read, The Secrets of a Scoundrel might not be a bad choice.