CAULDRON OF INIQUITY
Anne Lesley Groell
Roc Books / 437 pages / (December 1999)
No life is complete without an introduction to the pleasure of mystery capers and wacky crime-fighting couples. To get the formula just right you need an unflappable hero whose only weakness is the daring, but impulsive, heroine. They were witty, madcap fun with a new, perplexing case each outing, and no one did it better than Myrna Loy and William Powell, whether in The Thin Man series or in any of their fifteen joint ventures on the big screen. No other duo has even come close.
Up ’til now.
Meet the Cloak and the Dagger: assassins and investigators of the highest order… with the least experience. Jenifleur and Thibault are the newest members of the Assassins Guild. Don’t let the fact that they survived their first two assignments fool you; they barely made it out with their lives. Any assignment could be the one that sees the end of the pair’s adventures and their young lives.
Daring, dumb luck, and the behind-the-scenes help of Jen’s aunt Vera, also known as the assassin the Hawk and heir to the post of Guildmaster, are the only thing keeping them alive. With Vera and her faithful mage Absalom on their side, they just might have a chance of getting out of the messes they get themselves into.
Naturally, there is an unvoiced and often thwarted romantic connection between the Cloak and the Dagger. A vein of stymied love is essential between the strong, long-suffering male and the oblivious, tempting female. That goes without saying, but it is worth pointing out that carrying on the frustration for too long proves maddening to some fans…
Thrills, merriment, and gratification await in the Cauldron of Iniquity, an elite illusion club owned by their client. For an unfortunate few, only terror and death await behind the mage-worked fantasy themes. Death, in this city of indulgence, can take many forms and, unfortunately for many, can take its time.
The world of Groell’s invention is a fantasy no less intriguing than the illusion clubs that are the focus of Cauldron of Iniquity. In some ways, almost Renaissance, in others, almost contemporary. The language (for a change) is pure present-day, the attitudes and morality are certainly modern.
This is a world where magic has developed in the place of industry and technology. Mages are the engineers, physicians, and scientists of civilisation in The Cloak and Dagger. It makes for a tantalising blend of ancient, present, and future, in which almost anything can happen and little is as it appears to be.
It’s an amazing environment, peopled with amazing and interesting characters. Groell manages to convey something of the nature of even the most minor “bit players.” The complex personalities that lead the story are revealed, bit by bit, providing constant surprises and shaping people, not puppets.
Nick and Nora Charles and naughty Asta are cinema and literary history now, but Cloak and Dagger are available to take up where they left off. No one is ever going to surpass the wicked dialogue of Dashiell Hammet’s sleuths, but give Jen and Thibault a chance — they are young, yet.