… Slippery Creatures. This is the first in a trilogy (I haven’t read the other two yet). Set in post-WWI England, with all the social upset that involves, we have a world-changing problem: a scientist who came up with a fancy new chemical weapon and then decided maaaaybe that was a bad thing. However, he’d already sent information to his old friend, a bookseller. Said bookseller has passed away before the book opens, leaving his nephew Will both his shop and his secret. The only problem for Will is that quite few people know that his uncle had this information – everyone but him, it seems. Escapades ensue.
Of the many people attempting to find this information, the most appealing is Kim, an aristocrat who would like to really get to know Will (waggles eyebrows). Will feels similarly, but of course it’s not that simple. Apart from anything else, having experienced mustard gas in the trenches, Will is determined that NONE of the people who want this information should have it. Not even the one he goes to bed with.
I adore Will, who is so straightforwardly himself. As Kim puts it: you know who you are and you wear it well. He’s been through four years of war and found a nation that had a lot of talk about honour but no future for the young men they’d sent to kill and be killed. Will’s approach to killing is “better you than me”, which makes him very practical and very dangerous (he has an emotional support knife). He is not, however, a natural conspirator.
Which is what leads to most of his conflict with Kim, who very much is a conspirator : Kim lies to him, and takes advantage of him. And however much Will might like him, he’s not up for that sort of treatment. From a writerly standpoint, Kim is Charles’ great creation: a likeable rogue who you can absolutely see the appeal of but nonetheless would like to smack for being a jerk.
Will and Kim each have their Emotional Support Amazing Woman. Kim has Phoebe, an aristocrat with sparkling manners and secrets of her own; Will has Maisie, a working class milliner who is probably the cleverest of them all. Although they are supporting roles, the women are never two-dimensional, with clearly defined personalities and opinions. I hope there’s more of their stories in the rest of the series.
Includes on page violence and explicit sex scenes.