Ashley Weaver’s series set in the time of Nick and Nora Charles returns with the 4th entry, The Essence of Malice, that starts with Amory receiving the gift of a new perfume, Shazadi, a heady gardenia and sensual scent, and scents will overlay the entire story.

Readers have become engaged with Amory Ames and her somewhat rakish husband Milo. The upper classes shine brightly, filled with glamour, as Amory finds out more than she ever wanted to know about the world of perfumers. Of course, her maid, Winnelda, and Milo’s valet, Parks, are on hand to smooth their travels.

After Milo receives a letter from his childhood nanny, he convinces Amory to travel from the lovely Lake Como in Italy with him to Paris to see Madame Nanette. Her wealthy employer, a premiere parfumier, has died just as his newest perfume is to be released, and the nanny feels that Helio Belanger’s death, after a plane accident the day before that he walked away from, apparently unhurt, was not natural. Belanger was a beau of Nanette 30 years before and she had consented to be a nanny to his young child with his second wife.

Amory and Milo become wrapped up in the unhappy family and the perfume industry as they investigate what really happened to Belanger, which has a heavy share of rivals, as well as family members who want to control the empire he built. Amory learns about creating new perfumes, layering scents, and that Belanger has three grown children as well as that new wife, all of whom live together, all suspsects vying for control of his business.

This is chock-full of snappy dialgue, romantic tension, lies and secret, all wrapped up in a darn good mystery. Add in the world of perfumers and you’ll learn while you deduct.

My favorite in the series to date, with a surprising ending.

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