The Essence of Malice

After weathering a turbulent period in her marriage, British socialite Amory Ames is enjoying a peaceful holiday with her husband, Milo, on Italy's Lake Como. Despite Milo's penchant for death-defying activities (such as piloting a seaplane), all is well in the Ameses' world, until a cryptic letter from his former nanny, Madame Nanette, summons the couple to Paris. There, the two must use their wit and charm to investigate the mysterious death of Madame Nanette's employer, Helios Belanger, a wealthy parfumier with many enemies. Ashley Weaver blends the worlds of perfume, Parisian society and (potential) murder in another Amory Ames mystery, The Essence of Malice.

Keen-eyed and strong-willed, though surprisingly vulnerable where Milo is concerned, Amory again proves herself a capable amateur sleuth, gaining entrée to the Belanger family's good graces by requesting an expensive custom scent. Meanwhile, Milo uses his native charm and the knowledge gleaned from his bad-boy past to investigate a few unsavory connections to the case. Amory and Milo spend much of the novel pursuing leads at cross purposes, but their insights benefit one another when shared. The tangled relationships of the Belanger family and the return of appealing minor characters such as Amory's flighty maid, Winnelda, add dimension to the novel, and the ending may surprise even seasoned mystery readers.

With top notes of dry wit, a solidly plotted base and a subtle but rich portrayal of a complicated marriage, Amory's fourth adventure is as satisfying as her bespoke Belanger scent. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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