Genres are tricky. They are designed to guide readers to books that
fall within their general interest, which is usually quite helpful.
For example, it keeps someone who is perusing the Horror section
from stumbling over another patron looking for a book on nature's
architecture or something similarly weighty (yet another reason to
buy books online!). Classification by genre can also have the
effect of dissuading an otherwise interested reader away from a
particular tome, however. And that leads us to DON'T LOOK BACK by
DON'T LOOK BACK is classified by its publisher as a historical
romance. Fair enough; the tale is set in London in the late 19th
Century, and there is certainly a bit of, ahem, romance here, with
some of the descriptions bordering on those commonly found in those
type of novels that have been disingenuously described as "ripped
bodices." But there's murder and intrigue as well, making it a mix
of testosterone, estrogen, and drawing room mystery. What would the
symbol for such a genre be? Perhaps a magnifying glass
strategically placed over some artful decolletage. Anyway, DON'T
LOOK BACK has enough elements of the mystery and romance genres to
easily appeal to the fans of both.
The protagonists of DON'T LOOK BACK are Lavinia Lake and Tobias
March. March is in the occupation of making discreet "inquiries,"
if you will, being able to move somewhat freely and quietly between
polite and impolite society in England. Lavinia Lake is a mesmerist
who has set aside that occupation in favor of working with March,
an arrangement met with some disapproval in that time and place.
Lake and March, as it happens, are more than business associates;
they have a very passionate personal relationship, which of course
interferes with their professional one. March is quite protective
of Lake, and Lake resents it. The result is that the sparks in the
boudoir are often less intense than those in the office. Such is
the case when Dr. Howard Hudson and his wife Celeste come to
Dr. Hudson is an old family friend of Lake's. His wife has layers
to her personality that become almost immediately evident; as the
reader soon learns, she uses her sensuality with a sinister twist.
Although she is an interesting character, she doesn't last too long
in DON'T LOOK BACK --- she is found murdered, strangled, it is
thought, by a lover. There is more to her death than an
assignation, however; Celeste also appears to have been involved in
the theft of The Blue Medusa, a coveted piece of antique jewelry.
Dr. Hudson retains Lake and March to find his wife's murderer, with
Lake accepting the assignment gladly, March reluctantly. March
senses danger in the air, and he is correct. Although even he,
astute as he is, cannot foresee another threat from Lake's past
coming back to attack her.
Quick has acquired a fine talent, achieved during the writing of
several novels, for balancing elements of mystery with the social
mores of another place and time. DON'T LOOK BACK is too fine a work
to be confined to one genre --- or perhaps, to any genre.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011