Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips

Flap copy from ARC:
"London, 1672. A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II, inscribing his victims' bodies with mysterious markings. Are the murders the random acts of a madman. Or the consequences of a deeply hidden conspiracy?

Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan's dream come true- until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. THe only key to the professor's unsolved murder is the seventeenth-century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king's mistress. Through the arcane collections of Cambridge's most eminent libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering secrets of London's dark past and Cambridge's equally murky present, and discovering that events are three hundred years ago may still have consequences today..."

I have mixed feelings about this engaging book that features two Cambridge historians investigating parallel mysteries today and 300 years in the past. The writing is crisp though I did find the use of the present tense for the historical portions rather jarring. Claire and Andrew seem like engaging characters, but the focus of the book is clearly Hannah and Edward in Restoration England.

It was definitely the historical portions of the novel that hooked me as a reader- the characters and Restoration London itself were well-drawn and the mystery was riveting. Though I enjoyed the interactions between Claire and Andrew, the modern day mystery seemed like an afterthought at best, and the solution had a deus-ex-machina quality that I found unappealing.

Regardless, I truly enjoyed the book, and will be looking to read Phillips first installment, "The Rossetti Letter". Strong 4 stars.


Anonymous said...

This is such a silly question, but is it first person or third person? Present tense bothers me when it's in third person, but not so much when it's in first person. I guess because first person makes more sense - like someone's actually narrating.

Colleen said...

third person present tense- I really did find it jarring every time there was a narration switch...

Book Bird Dog said...

Hannah's life was definitely more interesting from an historical point of view, I agree. Claire was involved in a modern murder mystery. The two stories together in the same book was very interesting.