California, 1930s: After narrowly escaping a serial killer targeting the circus, trapeze artist Amalie Vaughn settles into the comfortable life of an innkeeper, hoping to put the past behind her. But when one of her guests is killed, seemingly by his own robot invention, Amalie in thrown into an investigation that circles around the dangerous mob, ruthless journalists, and washed up Hollywood actors. She finds herself partnering with the handsome Matthias Jones, known associate of the local mob boss, with a special talent of his own—detecting lies. Soon they discover the murdered inventor may have been a part of something much larger involving international schemes and code machines stolen after the Great War. Worse still, Amalie can’t shake the feeling that her worst nightmare isn’t quite over yet.
This is a quick, cleverly-put-together read, reminiscent of an old Hollywood black and white. The prose is clear and no-nonsense, the characters cut and dry. Moving swiftly between scenes, we get a dizzying glimpse of a wide array of players before the story settles into a groove and the action heats up. The romance is expected and believable, but I found the dialogue to be a tad stilted, and often reiterates the message. Amalie is plucky and capable, and Matthias leans toward the classic misunderstood agent. While I wished for a firmer connection to the characters, the final pages twist and turn delightfully, wrapping up both ends to a satisfying conclusion.