Sunday, May 29, 2011
THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF AMBROSE HORNE (NOVEL) by Chrissie Bentley
Armed with only his relentless curiosity for the darkest recesses of human sexuality, Ambrose Horne is the enterprising eroticist for whom no puzzle is too perplexing, no secret is too scandalous, and no position is too impolite. Now, gathered together for your reading pleasure, 'The Erotic Adventures Of Ambrose Horne' reveals the Carnal Casebook of the Idiosyncratic Inquisitor, the Horny Holmes ... the man who put the Dick into Private Investigator ... the one-and-only Ambrose Horne.
EXCERPT (from THE STRANGE CASE OF THE CONFUSING CORPORAL)
‘Head shrinkers. Whatever will they think of next?’
Horne had little time for the newly emergent art of psychiatry ... like most learned men of the late 19th century, he believed that there was nothing wrong with a fellow’s mind that a little hard work, a few years in the military and, if all that failed, a padded cell at Bedlam Hospital, could not cure. And how was he so sure? Because his own life’s work was intimately bound up in examining the minds, and deducing the motives, of his fellow man – a life’s work at which, if he said so himself, he excelled.
Twenty-three times he had been called in to solve riddles that the best minds in the land had been unable to crack; and twenty-three times, he had succeeded. The nameplate on his door in London’s fashionable Belgravia read, simply, ‘Ambrose Horne – Detective.’ But his reputation in the corridors of British Law screamed ‘Genius.’
Major Carpenter reminded him of that fact when they met at dinner that evening. ‘You know the British Army really doesn’t like to bring in outsiders,’ he said in-between mouthfuls of piping oxtail soup. ‘But, quite frankly, Horne, we’re at a complete loss. We know our secrets are getting into the wrong hands, and we know the leak is here in this town. But neither our own top brains nor Scotland Yard’s have been able to track it down.’
‘Does anybody else at all know of this investigation?’ Horne asked.
‘Not a soul. In fact, you only got clearance because somebody remembered that you signed the Official Secrets Act back in ‘86.’
Horne nodded. August 1886. Somebody had walked into a Naval laboratory and, apparently, sailed out again in a top-secret prototype submarine. It took the authorities six weeks to admit they didn’t know how it was done, but it took Horne just two days to produce both the thief and the submarine, while a certain Foreign Power gnashed its teeth and wondered where its ill-gotten prize had so mysteriously gone.
‘But surely I’m not the only private detective who’s had that honour?’ Horne asked, genuinely surprised at the Major’s revelation.
‘No, but you are the best ... and you know how to keep your mouth shut. Unlike certain others in your trade.’
Horne nodded. ‘You mean Holmes.’ Sherlock Holmes, the bright light that beamed from Baker Street, was at the peak of his personal renown at that time, and Horne was constantly aware that, in terms of general public recognition, the absurdly-outfitted sleuth was streets ahead of him. And that, Horne contentedly knew, was his downfall – as Major Carpenter was swift to confirm.
‘Of course I mean Holmes. The pompous ass. Yes, yes, he’s brilliant, everybody admits that. But having that preposterous little assistant of his, Watson or whatever his name is, write the cases up for the popular press is nothing short of shameless self-aggrandizement. Mark my words, he’ll never work for this country’s government again ... and I don’t care what Watson writes to the contrary.
‘But you, Horne, you have admirers that even you are not aware of. From the lowest parlour maid ...’ and here, to Horne’s wry amusement, he gestured at Mary, as she hovered at the foot of the table, preparing for the arrival of the main course ‘... to the highest seats in the land. And there is nothing that they would not do for you.’ This time, Horne’s eyes met the girl’s, and he saw her tongue flick lasciviously across her lips. He cleared his throat, and turned his attention back to the Major. ‘And why is that?
Because we know that what you are told will never be heard again.’
Horne lowered his eyes. ‘Well, Major, that might be for the best. Some of my methods are, shall we say, a little unconventional for present day tastes.’
This might be controversial, but for me, the best erotic fiction isn’t all about the sex. With no pun intended, it really should be about the full package. And that’s what Chrissie Bentley delivers in this collection of short stories which sway from the poignant to the ludicrously funny. And that package includes – rest assured – lots of hot Victorian action!
Set in the era already SO dominated by that other fictional detective, Ambrose Horne does a very good job at establishing himself as the sleuth who takes a refreshingly different approach to uncovering the truth – more often than not a horizontal one.
When I started reading this book, I worried that after the first few stories, the plots would grow a bit samey or contrived (as they did in that TV programme Rosemary and Thyme – after all, just how many murders can a couple of landscape gardeners unearth?!) but thankfully this is not the case here. In fact, not only has the author managed to create a charismatic hero (who has a Bond-esque way with the ladies) and some entertaining and testing plotlines, but she’s impressively highlighted a social truth: that almost everything in this life comes down to sex, greed or both.
I can’t wait to read the next two instalments of Ambrose Horne.
Local author, Chrissie Bentley, goes back in time across three books of short stories featuring everyone’s favorite erotic detective, Ambrose Horne!
The Erotic Adventures of Ambrose Horne
The Erotic Memoirs of Ambrose Horne
The Erotic Return of Ambrose Horne
With Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movie going gangbusters on the DVD circuit, there could be no better time to step back in time with another of Victorian England’s greatest detectives – although you will quickly discover that Ambrose Horne had a penchant for somewhat earthier pursuits than Holmes.
The brilliant creation of Philadelphia author Chrissie Bentley, Ambrose Horne is the sleuth that society calls upon to unravel the mysteries that delicacy and discretion dare not discuss with anybody else. Three volumes of his adventures – each containing five full-length stories – include such seemingly unfathomable puzzles as a mysteriously damaged stamp collection (“The Coagulated Conundrum”), a lost book of the Bible (“the Rediscovered Heresy”), a plague of ginger-haired children (“The Midnight Succubus”), and more. But behind those simple descriptions, and the deductive process that solves them, there lurk secrets and situations at which Holmes would have blanched before he even picked up his deerstalker.
Each of the stories is genuinely gripping, littered with both arcane historical observations and fascinating period trivia, and all pose genuine mysteries for the reader to attempt to solve alongside Horne. Where Bentley steps away from the detecting norm is in the sheer eroticism of her storytelling – anybody familiar with her other writings will already be aware of the full XXX impact that she brings to every tale, and Ambrose marches proudly to the same delirious drum.
From the genuinely idiosyncratic manner in which he contemplates the matter at hand, to the distinctly unconventional means by which he concludes every case, Horne’s adventures are exhilarating excursions into a world that is as far removed from the typical view of Victorian England as it is possible to journey. At the same time, however, it is very easy to believe that both Horne and his memoirs really are genuine survivors of an age in which the merest glimpse of a lady’s bare ankle was sufficient to morally bankrupt a passing gentleman, suppressed for so long that society itself had forgotten him. Now he is back and, needless to say, he discusses a lot more than mere ankles.
These three fantastic books are all available at : Xcite Books
Amy Hanson, Wilmington Examiner
Posted by Jenny Swallows at 5:48 AM