The Evil in Pemberley House, The Scarlet Jaguar. Patricia "Pat" Wildman is back in this new novella which promises more to come from Win's word processor in years to come. Before we dive into the meat of Win's prose, I want to draw attention to the cover art by Mark Sparacio. I want to know who is modeling for Mr. Sparacio's artwork, because that figure is so over the top that the top is visible solely as a pinprick below. Gina gave me some serious side-eye when I pulled this book out of the Meteor House box and had a few choice words regarding Ms. Wildman's likelihood of future back pain and whether or not the torn shirt is carefully glued in place to preserve her modesty.
But anyways, on to the review.
A few months after the events of The Evil in Pemberley House, Pat Wildman and her partner Parker have settled into Pemberley House and her role as the Duchess of Greystoke and Baroness Lambton, as well as their new venture, the detective agency of Empire State Investigations. It is in this latter role that they're brought in contact with young Emma Ponsonby (a name I associate indelibly with an episode of the second season of Blackadder, But I digress...), whose father, a diplomat involved in the affairs of the Central American nation of Xibum, has gone missing.
It would appear the vanishing of Ponsonby is intimately related to the appearance of a master criminal calling themselves "the Scarlet Jaguar," and committing assassinations in a very unusual fashion - to the sound of a snarling jaguar, the target is transformed into crimson glass and shattered, releasing a puff of red smoke that resembles the roaring face of a big cat. With the Scarlet Jaguar threatening to cripple the world's shipping lanes, Wildman is soon on the Jaguar's tail, with Parker and her old girlfriend, Helen Benson (daughter of Richard Benson, the Avenger, and the Domino Lady) by her sides.
The Scarlet Jaguar feels like it should be a Doc Savage novel. The pacing, the organization, the language...if I didn't know better, I'd say Lester Dent's shade showed up in Win's office and said, "Scoot over, I'll show ya how it's done." I mean that as the highest praise; I consider Dent a world-class story teller, and Win's work here is a match for Dent's in quality.
A couple of the connections took me by surprise; Helen Benson had me scrambling to google both the Avenger and the Domino Lady, though Win does include a brief back-story to Helen's famous father and an explanation of her inheritance of certain traits from him. Additionally, there's some clever references to the TV show "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." including the assertion that Doc Wildman was instrumental in the foundation of that organization, and the idea of the former foot-soldiers of a defeated T.H.R.U.S.H. becoming soldiers of fortune hiring themselves out to other megalomaniacs, which I thought was an inspired touch.
I think the thing that took me the most by surprise, after the rampant sexuality of Pemberley House, was how low-key it was kept in Scarlet Jaguar; Helen and Pat share a kiss and Helen gives Pat's rump a good squeezing to make Parker jealous, but that's about it. Again, this is more in keeping with Dent and his target audience versus the more...err, drama-soaked conventions of the Gothic. I'd told Gina about some of the sex in Pemberley House, and upon learning that this was a sequel, her immediate inquiry was "does she get it on with the Scarlet Jaguar?" So now I can tell her the answer to that is a firm "no."
What else is there for me to say about The Scarlet Jaguar? How about the fact that I devoured it in a single sitting, laying down in bed to start the book and finishing it two hours later without realizing the passage of time. If that's not a compliment to a book and its author, I don't know what is. It's a really great, riveting adventure that furthers Pat's understanding of her father and her own growth as a blight to evil-doers. This is what New Pulp is all about, and you can buy it from the publisher here.