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The Impostor: The Liar's Club    by Celeste Bradley order for
by Celeste Bradley
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The Prime Minister is after the identity and the head of 'Sir Thorogood', a caustic and increasingly popular political cartoonist whose drawings are damaging to the reputations of the Crown and certain aristocrats. It's up to Dalton Montmorency, (new head of a shadowy group of British spies dubbed 'The Liar's Club') to impersonate the elusive Sir Thorogood in the hopes of flushing him out and putting an end to his Reformist ways.

Widowed Clara Simpson is appalled when she comes face to face with the dandified and monocled Sir Thorogood at a dazzling ball. How dare this buffoon impersonate her, making a public mockery of her efforts to expose corruption and other societal misdeeds in the only way she can! Determined to unmask this simpering liar, the normally quiet and reserved Clara sheds her drab plumage. She becomes the kind of woman Thorogood loves to display on his magenta-sleeved arm -- a giggling fawning goose.

Meanwhile, Dalton not only finds it hard and embarrassing work to maintain his ridiculous persona, but also quickly discovers that someone is trying to kill Sir Thorogood. In the space of a few days there are no less than three attempts on his life. To make matters worse, he must fend off the incredibly annoying attentions of Mrs. Clara 'Simpleton'. She throws herself at 'Sir Thorogood' at every opportunity and in the most unbecoming manner. It takes all of Dalton's control to avoid strangling the silly woman each time she opens her 'braying' mouth.

Things take an even more interesting and confusing twist when Clara and Dalton assume second identities: Clara as a maid and Dalton as a common thief. Clara borrows Rose's identity to research her next cartoon while Dalton poses as Monty to learn more about Sir Thorogood's political connections. Naturally the pair fully explore their new roles, acting in ways they never would normally. Inevitably they become midnight lovers. The Impostor evolves into a comedy of errors as Monty and Rose each tries to expose the other, unaware that they're working towards the same goal, and all the while trying to deny their love for one another.

Though a spy story set in Regency England is a romance formula that's been done to death, the author skillfully injects fresh life into a pedestrian premise. Outstanding characterizations, wonderful secondaries, crisp pacing, crackling dialogue and truly fine writing, not to mention plenty of humour, make The Impostor a dazzling second installment in The Liar's Club series. Celeste Bradley is most definitely a star on the rise. Donít miss this one and be sure to look for The Spy in February, 2004.

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