The Girl Who Knew Too Much, by Amanda Quick

9 May

thegirlwhoknewtoomuch

I received an ARC for this novel sometime in late 2016, and it was one of only two new books I read in the months following my mother’s death.

Although I have not yet written any reviews for them, I own and love all of Ms Quick’s early historical novels (Surrender, Mystique, Ravished, etc). In later years, I had given up on her books, after growing a bit fatigued by some writing tics, and frankly tired of the Arcane Society novels.¹

However, the cover caught my eye, and the blurb makes it clear this novel is not part of a series. Best of all, it’s set in California in the 1930s!

Warning: there are a couple of murders, though not much gore; there’s adult language, and sex on the page. If any of these bother you, avoid this one.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much, by Amanda Quick

I liked many things about this novel, starting with how well the setting is rendered. I felt immersed in the period without awkward lectures or info-dumping. Both of the main characters are complex and three dimensional, and their world is populated by three dimensional, complex people.

The suspense thread is a lot more layered than the blurb would make one think, and the story is told from several characters’ point of view, which allows the reader to believe she knows more than our hero and heroine.

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

As a suspense, it worked very well, despite–or perhaps, because–we know so much about what is going on, from so many people’s perspectives. Except, we really don’t.

One of the best things about this story, on the suspense angle, is that no one, and pretty much nothing, is precisely what they appear to be. In most cases, the clues that there’s more there than meets the eye are quite subtle, which is lovely.

And then, there are the twists–of which I’ll say nothing more, because they are most excellent, and you, dear readers, deserve to get the full impact, as I did.

As a romance, I liked both main characters almost equally.

Irene may be younger than Oliver by about a decade, but she’s no naïve, trusting chit. The most enduring lesson in her life is that she can count on herself first and last, and that nothing in life is free–or without consequences. She has given her trust fully only a few times, and paid for it dearly, and she’s not about to spill her guts to the mysterious Mr. Ward now.

However, while resourceful, there is nothing of the dreaded Mary Sue in Irene. She makes mistakes, and her self-assurance has been hard-earned. She is in a vulnerable position from the start, making the best decisions she can–even when the choice is between two fairly ominous alternatives. More than anything, Irene is very relatable.

“Acting on instinct–she certainly wasn’t thinking clearly now–she scooped up the weapon” (Chapter 1)

Seriously, Irene is great. She smart, loyal, a realist and a survivor.

Oliver is outwardly the more worldly of the two. From an early age, he has created a purposefully obscure public persona, which he uses as leverage in his early dealings with Irene. He deals with chronic pain from a serious injury, which I really liked. He’s still the tall, dark, mysterious hero one comes to expect from Ms Quick, but he’s more human than most.

He has very good reasons for his own lack of trust, but he is also smart and loyal.

They complement each other without being so perfectly matched as to be boring.

Then there are the secondary characters. I mentioned above that the novel is told from several points of view, which include a couple of Very Bad Dudes ™ as well as a few relatively minor players. With one or two exceptions, Ms Quick creates a very intriguing and unique cast of characters to populate the world of The Girl Who Knew Too Much. We have the magician, the aspiring gossip columnist, the shady wealthy man, the androgynous bar tender, the rising Hollywood star, and more.

What is great is that none of these people are just there for the sake of the plot; whoever they are, whatever they do, they ring true. They are people with their own lives beyond their lines in this play, so to speak.

I mentioned that I enjoyed the sense of time and place. The thirties are the beginning of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, and the novel conveys all the glamour and concurrent darkness of the era. Ms Quick manages to drop references to the economic situation of the country, the state of technology, and even the politics of the time, without distracting from the narrative. This is simply when and where the characters live, and this is how it affects their thoughts and actions.

And yet, there are also a number of subtle homages to the glamorous Golden Age and its stars.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much gets a 8.75 out of 10.

~ * ~

¹ For those who don’t know, Ms Quick currently writes under three pseudonyms, and at one point she was writing under seven different names.

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6 Responses to “The Girl Who Knew Too Much, by Amanda Quick”

  1. Carolyn 10/05/2017 at 2:47 PM #

    I don’t usually read Amanda Quick but this cover caught my eye and I do read mysteries and so … I bought it. Sounds like it was a good decision. 🙂

    Thank you for the great review; I plan to read this book next. (I’m glomming Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series at the moment.)

    • azteclady 10/05/2017 at 2:58 PM #

      Oh, please do let me know what you think about it! 😀

  2. Monika Wernli 10/05/2017 at 3:18 PM #

    I *hate* you! First for getting an ARC of this book (which sounds really fabulous) and second for writing the review I would like to have written: already the beginning, describing your preference for JAK’s early historical romances and your rising dissatisfaction with the novels from the Arcane Society cycle, so completely concurs with my own feelings!

    • azteclady 10/05/2017 at 3:23 PM #

      Sorry! 😉

      I hope you let me know what you think about it, if and when.

  3. Erin S. Burns 12/05/2017 at 1:53 PM #

    I am glad this one worked better for you than it did for me. Some of that is probably because I did not have the gap in reading her….this might just be my time.

    • azteclady 12/05/2017 at 2:16 PM #

      Ah, yes, that may be it.

      Here’s hoping the reading gets better, whatever and whoever you read next!

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