The Perfect Poison
by Amanda Quick, historical/paranormal (2010)
Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-14777-3


The Perfect Poison only serves to remind me why I have long stopped following Amanda Quick. Yes, the author has a formula that she mines to death several times over, but it's a formula that works where I am concerned. She is great at depicting a relationship between two misunderstood people that is full of humor and chemistry. But since the author begins to labor under the delusion that she is a great romantic suspense author, pushing the romance into the background, I begin to lose interest in her books.

I have not read any of the previous books in the author's series about the Arcane Society, so I'm a bit lost when it comes to the background details of this society. It's some kind of underground society for people with "psychical" powers, I am given to understand, working to give bad psychical folks the beat down. I also discover that "psychical", like "magickal", is another word that actually exists but annoys me all the same when it is used. What is wrong with "psychic"? Does the extra "al" beat the competition or something?

So, back to the Arcane Society. In this one, we meet Lucinda Bromley. She has not exactly the best of reputation since her fiancé died of suspecting poisoning at her hands. She occasionally gives the Scotland Yard a hand as she has super psychical ability to detect and identify any poison used at the scene of crime. At the most recent scene of crime, she privately identifies the poison used, and begins to worry because the poison originates from a very rare type of fern. And, until a few weeks ago, she was the only one in England to have that plant in her conservatory.

She turns to Caleb Jones, our hero and one of the highest ranking members of the Arcane Society, for help. Oh, Caleb can detect "psychical" vibes of violence and malice and other lofty feelings. That's useful, I'm sure. He can come onto the scene of a crime, see a dead body, and tell everyone he's picking up vibes of homicide from the dead body. Anyway, off these go to investigate who stole Lucinda's evil fern and killed that sad bloke.

The romance is pretty perfunctory. Both Lucinda and Caleb are watered down versions of the characters that the author writes all the time, so it's up to the reader's familiarity with the author's formula to plug in the details. Yes, Lucinda is a misunderstood heroine stuck unfairly with a reputation that she doesn't deserve. She is not thought to be a great beauty by all other than the hero, who sees at once that she is beautiful in so many unconventional ways. Yes, Caleb is considered a cold-hearted man, but Lucinda can tell right away that he's full of passion waiting to be unleashed at her. There is That Unexpected Kiss, then that Sex Scene - it's so blooming psychical when he "pulsed his essence into her", I tell you, it's so Dr Who - and a happy ending; three major acts interspersed by scenes of these two investigating stuff.

The romance may be weak, but there are still some signs of humor and chemistry that made the author's formula work well in the past. Since the romance is not the main focus of the story, however, these moments of charm are very few. This story is all about the suspense, and Ms Quick writes suspense like a scriptwriter for the Scooby-Doo cartoons that has lost all sense of irony. Then again, at least the Mystery Inc gang is on a level playing field with the cartoon villains because the good guys are crippled by as much stupidity as the villains. In this story, on the other hand, the good guys are so blooming magnificent and capable that the poor villains obviously don't stand a chance. These villains can only hope that they get their moment of Scooby-Doo villainy - such as pointing a gun at the good guys and heckling them as they revealed every single detail of their plot to the good guys - before their rear ends get kicked all over town by Caleb's awesome physical sole.

And the mystery is such a dull variation of the author's formula. I'm sure you know what I am talking about if you have read at least three of the author's previous books. The hero and the heroine wander around town until they stumble upon a clue pointing to a suspect. They rush to break into the suspect's place only to find that the suspect has died or decamped (maybe the suspect is psychical too). They find the clues, then proceed to look for the next clue and the next suspect. Repeat and rinse, until finally, they locate the villain, who will usually kidnap the heroine and then proceed to blab voluntarily every single detail about That Evil Plot to her. The hero shows up, the whole thing is then over with the villain dead.

I know, I know, I've just spoiled this book as well as every single previous book that the author has ever written.

Unlike the author's formula for romance, her formula for romantic suspense is too dreary and dull for words. No amount of made-up jargon can erase the fact that the plot of this book is severely outclassed by any random episode of Scooby-Doo. In the case of this book, The Perfect Poison is a lethal dose of boredom.

Rating: 52


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