And here he was now in his own bookshop, well fed, usefully busy, and enjoyably partnered. It made the violent assault and threat of torture seem quite worthwhile.”
― K.J. Charles, Slippery Creatures
Will Darling has returned from serving in World War 1 and is starting to get back on his feet. After being unable to find employment upon returning to London, he is taken in by his estranged uncle, who runs a massive bookshop. When his uncle passes away from a stroke, Will takes over the bookstore.
We meet Will here. He starts getting strange visits from men demanding that he hand over “the information” or there will be dire consequences. Will knows when he is being bullied and decides to search for this mystery information himself, however it is quite a challenge since he has no idea what the information is, why these men want it, and it is hidden somewhere among thousands of dusty books. By coincidence, he is helped by another customer, Kim Secretan, who claims he is helping Will because he loves a good puzzle. Secretan is more than he seems, and Will finds himself drawn to Kim despite his suspicions about the man’s true motives.
Will and Kim are fascinating characters and their interactions are whip-smart. Kim’s fiance, Phoebe, is also very interesting, but I found her to be more tedious than charming. The chemistry between Will and Kim is fantastic, however it was at times difficult to enjoy their interactions since Kim is painted as such an unreliable partner.
I really wanted to love this book because I adore Will. However, the central mystery and hot and cold of Kim’s behavior turned me off. The world-building and tension in the relationship is wonderful, but I cannot get past the convoluted and strange turns of the central mystery to care enough to power through the next book in the series.
This is not a bad book. But, for various reasons, it annoyed me immensely. I’m giving it 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2.