Month: January 2017

Death at Crane’s Court

death-at-cranes-courtDeath at Crane’s Court by Ellis Dillon (1920 – 1994) was first published in 1953.  I read the Perennial Mystery Library edition of 1988 with cover by Bradley Clark. This is the first novel I have read by Dillon – not too surprising a fact since Dillon is only known for very few mystery novels. I would definitely read more of her works, though.  She was born in Galway, Ireland and several of her novels take place there.

In this particular novel, however, the setting did not play a major rôle whatsoever.  I actually would have preferred if it had more significance. I was hoping for a more culturally-flavored story, I think

Crane’s Court is a “hotel” (older meaning of the term) near Galway. The hotel has a new owner and he arrives via train with one of the new residents of the hotel. The new owner is found murdered not much more than a month after his arrival and the suspects are multiple since the majority of the residents are: hunters/sportsmen, senile and crazed, invalids/infirm.

Everyone, it seems has motive, opportunity, and is in agreement regarding their negative feelings toward the new owner:  John Burden.  The story begins following the travels of George Arrow to his new home at Crane’s Court. And as plain and easy-going as George is as a character, the novel is really stolen completely by the enigmatic and vociferous Professor Daly.

Issues that face the detective, Inspector Mike Kenny, are the facts that the residents of the hotel are members of a past-age wherein many would have been upper class and therefore not subservient to lawmen and the public justice. They all still dress for dinner. The location of teatime in the facility is a major item of contention. In other cases, the senile and/or crazed residents are treated with just as much privilege as their peers. But, rather than living in a familial and warm community, there is a great deal of competition, distrust, pettiness within Crane’s Court. Some of this is due to eccentricities of old age, some of this is due to social status.

I wanted to like this novel a whole lot more than I did. There are a number of red herrings, but the clues are slim. All of the characters are recklessly unique and some of them are charming. But throughout, I felt any one of them could turn and reveal their hidden maniacal side. I was never sure when each character really was cleared of suspicion.

And it is not a fair-play novel. For the most part the reader follows Inspector Kenny around as he questions the residents and suspects, but the reader is not privy to any of his conclusions or argumentation. Toward the end of the book, the real surprise is almost how much work Kenny has done “off-stage.”  In fact, a lot seems to happen off stage and maybe filling in some of these gaps would have made a more rounded novel.

At the end, if I am being bluntly honest, I am not sure I think the guilty character is perfectly convincing – although it is all explained sufficiently. And I don’t think I really like any of the characters. I mean, they would be fine to read a short novel about, but I do not think I would turn my back on any of them.

This novel would not disappoint any vintage readers or mystery readers. I think it actually falls closer to a four-star rating, but I always rate low when books are in the middle unless there is just some overwhelming reason to do otherwise. The Professor could have been one of those reasons – he is definitely the most engaging of the group. I found him, sometimes, to be a little creepy and weird (the glib are disconcerting).

3 stars

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Dissolution

dissolutionDissolution by Richard Lee Byers is part of the large collection of Forgotten Realms novels.  I think that the dark elves, or Drow, are the most famous creations of this expansive franchise. This novel is book one in a miniseries of novels that contain the tale of the “War of the Spider Queen.”  Byers was carefully selected by managing members of the Forgotten Realms franchise to write this first novel in the miniseries, by which it was hoped new readers could approach the mythology and old readers would re-kindle their love for the franchise.  This first novel was published in 2002 and five others followed afterward, each from a different author.

I have not read much in the Forgotten Realms collection. I read, at least, the first two (very famous) novels in the Drizzt Do’Urden subseries; that would be R. A. Salvatore’s Homeland and then Exile.  I do recall reading some of the third Drizzt novel, but I honestly do not think I finished it. Based on the internal chronology of the franchise, the War of the Spider Queen novels occur just under a hundred years after the first Drizzt novel (Homeland) takes place.

Generally, I get the sense that these huge franchises of novels/games are looked down upon by the “reading elite” as hack/pulp meant solely to feed some stereotyped awkward love for these genres.  Somewhat like a soap opera for teenagers, I suppose.  I do think this is a prevailing opinion, but I do not think it is completely true. Sure, in every genre there is a grouping of zealously loyal fans.  However, when the fans are not in adoration of the most literary or academic pursuits, there does tend to be a negative view taken.  But there is a simple joy in following these serial, melodramatic (and often formulaic) fantasy-soap operas.  And, whether people like to admit it or not, there are some great creations that come out of these large franchise series.

The Drow, or dark elves, are one of those really interesting creations. If you think of Forgotten Realms, you will have some thought to the dark elves. They are something like – though I hesitate to push the negative analogy too far – the opposite of the stately and high-minded elves brought to us by J. R. R. Tolkien. Now, I know Tolkien’s elves are hardly original, but his representation seems to have supplanted the older Germanic/Scandinavian conceptions.  So, the Drow live in the Underdark (underground) and have a matriarchal society infused with magic.  It is hardly an amoral or anarchic society, but the rules are very much based on ambition, political power, uneasy alliances, and treachery. Love, compassion, mercy, and trust are not really parts of this world. Naturally, this is what makes these dark elves so dang interesting in any storyline.

Byers was elected to write the opening novel in this miniseries that is entirely focused on the Drow world. The storyline is vast and complex and he had to leave a lot of room for the following authors to work, while giving them a good footing. And so the majority of this novel is functional and introductory.  Byers gives us specific examples of the Drow behavior and activities.  Then, he begins to follow a couple characters specifically and begins the subplots.  The reader bounces back and forth between a variety of characters, some of these are more interesting than the others.  I will say that for the first half of the book the thread following Pharaun Mizzrym and Ryld Argith seemed stupid. It was the part that caused the most aggravation in my reading.

Finally, just past the halfway point, the Byers started to bring some of these threads together.  Finally, what seemed like pointless roaming in circles actually started to converge.  This was good because it was getting to be a real struggle reading along.

The only character – from start to finish – who I found continuously interesting was Quenthel Baenre.  Quenthel is a Drow priestess; in fact she is the Mistress of the clerical school in the dark elf city. Throughout the novel, I found myself following her exploits with more interest than those of the other Drow.

The last third of the novel gets quite intertwined in combat scenes, monsters, magic, and Drow treachery.  And, I will say, there are several scenes in this novel that are a bit darker and more gruesome than one would expect in franchise-owned pulp.  The novel serves its purpose – one does want to read further in the War of the Spider Queen and the Drow remain dark and treacherous. Overall, Byers does a solidly adequate job. But nothing here is beyond what one should expect and the novel has some awfully sluggish sections.

3 stars

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The Dark Side of the Road

the-dark-side-of-the-roadThe Dark Side of the Road is the first novel in Simon R. Green’s Ishmael Jones series.  Simon R. Green is a well-known author hailing from England.  He is known for writing a number of series including the Deathstalker, Hawk & Fisher, Nightside, and Ghost Finders series.  The Dark Side of the Road was first published in 2015.

I own the Deathstalker series novels and I have read three Nightside novels. I generally find Green’s writing to be a wee bit darker and a little less enjoyable than comparable authors. I recall that some readers recommended the Nightside series to fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden series.  Something that I think is somewhat similar betwixt the two series is the lead characters in both are somewhat snarky, rather jaded, loners who seem to be the only experts in a field of interest comprised of one member.

To be honest, these types of characters are nearly archetypal categories in certain genres.  They are necessary elements in a specific novel. This feels both comfortable and also saddening.  I do not mind admitting that sometimes you want to read a novel that contains character-forms that are already familiar. Fantasy novels (particularly traditional epic fantasy novels) are rife with examples.  Let me give an example; the group of archetypal characters has a quest.  The group always consists of:  the comedy, the wizard, the brute, the knight, and the Everyman.  Some readers treat this negatively.  I admit that I sometimes find it horribly unoriginal and tiring, too.  However, on occasion it is just easily comfortable to know who the characters are before you open the cover.

So, when I say that Ishmael Jones is one of those characters who is a loner, drinks moodily at the pub, answers questions with questions/without giving any data, and prides himself on being without roots or hindrances – you know exactly the character I mean. Immediately the reader has to confront the name of the character. The first line of the novel is: “Call me Ishmael. Ishmael Jones.”

At this point, it can go one of two ways… A.) The reader can guffaw and snort with the author at the painfully obvious reference AND think this is a neat name for a character; B.) The reader can be disgusted by the over-the-top obnoxiousness of this line and name. Honestly, I was in the second group. I like sarcasm and and satire, but this is just too much.

Anyway, this story takes place at Christmastime in rural Cornwall.  Green sets the whole story (which is a total of three days) in the middle of a horrendous blizzard.  I read this book at the start of January and I recommend readers keep this one for December and January as well. It helps reading the thing if it is also wintertime.  This is no beach read and reading it at Myrtle or Clearwater will ruin the effect because the blizzard is providing the “locked-room” constraint to the novel.

Jones is invited to spend Christmas at a country manor house with the Colonel and the Colonel’s family.  Jones has known the Colonel for fifteen years, but their relationship has been solely work-focused. They work, of course, in a secret, underground, shadowy world. The Colonel’s invite to come to Cornwall, therefore leaves Jones agitated and worried. Jones is not the sort of person you invite anywhere unless there is serious business to be handled.

Throughout the first chunk of the novel, Green repetitively drops “hints” (if by hint we mean sledgehammer) about how Jones is abnormal. He is special. He is a little more skilled, robust, knowledgeable than he should be. He is well-trained and heavily experienced – at whatever shadowy and mysterious tasks he does.

And for the first half of the novel, the storyline is slow. After all the whole novel is only spanning three days of time. So, the first half spends a lot of time setting the scene and meeting the characters. Naturally, Jones is an aloof house guest who provides a sketch of each of the other members at the party.  Some of this is very info-dumpish and heavy-handed. Its not good writing – there is no nuance whatsoever. But it is vaguely interesting. Because the story feels a lot less like Nightside and a lot more like a mystery novel.

And go ahead and admit it with me….. a blizzard at Christmas in a rural Cornwall manor house with a mystery afoot…. is definitely something you want to read even if the writing is hack and weak.

The second half of the novel is where the action takes place. And events transpire quickly, once they get going. The novel is very much like Clue – but with some supernatural elements. And I need to share here that the events do get very gory at times. So, it is not a light and bright read.  There is some gore that will bother the best imaginations that read this story.

The ending opens the knowledge that this will be a series. But as a standalone, this is okay – it is a completed, closed unit in itself. Will I read the second? Oh sure, but not because it is  great novel. I will read on because it is such easy reading to find out what happens next to a character who, in his own way, is quite unique – even if a lot of tropes cover his landscape. The secret organization is actually the real hook Green got me with….

In some ways, this is a genre-mixing of a couple ideas. Tropes and archetypes abound. It is not nuanced or complex. But it is interesting, fast-reading, and entertaining.

3 stars

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The Rook

the-rookThe first novel that I finished in 2017 is The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. It was originally published in 2012, but I still see it on group reads lists and in general circulation among readers. I watched one of the “trailers” (not sure how I feel about books having these) and it neither intrigued me, nor discouraged me. This not a perfect novel, but these days, there are so few truly good books that it should not be surprising. It was, however, one of the better novels that I have read in months. This is not deeply intellectual literary fiction, but it is quite a bit of fun and entertainment.

The thing about this book that most struck me was that the author is male (raised in Australia, educated in the USA) and this is his first published novel. However he writes a very convincing and likeable female main character. I think this would be difficult to do – to write a main character of the opposite gender – and do it without it seeming patronizing or stilted. I would have assumed the author was female if I had not known otherwise prior to reading the book.

Myfanwy Thomas is the name of the main character and much has been made of her first name. It has been said that this name is Welsh and is pronounced similar to “Tiffany.” I’ll be honest, with names in novels, I have never actually read them. I read them once or twice and then the whole name just becomes a block item – pattern recognition. That shape is the main character.

So, a secret government organization called The Checquy exists.  They deal with (all aspects) of the supernatural/unnatural all in the service of The Kingdom.  They are run by The Court, which consists of their senior leadership members – who are ranked in accordance with the standard pieces of chess. Why? No real reason other than “it is cool” – because chess is cool. The main character, Myfanwy Thomas, is a Rook. Since I know you know your chess, you know that the Rook is the “lowest” ranked non-pawn piece. (Let’s not expand into the supposed values of the chess pieces.)  In this story, she’s having a rather rough time of it.

Another item that really impressed me about the author’s efforts here, is how he manages info dumps. First of all, he created an exceedingly likeable main character. The Myfanwy character is convincing, intelligent, and has a completed personality. Also, she is definitely one of the wittiest characters I have read in a long time. And by “witty,” understand that I do not mean snarky or cutting. I mean actually witty. Part of developing this character so well was giving her a unique and powerful voice.  I think this, too, is a challenge for many writers. Making sure that the character has her own voice and is recognizable and realistic makes it infinitely better when we have heaps of information that the main character is going to spew at us.

“I just received information that the Americans are coming.”

“All of them?” asked Myfanwy. (pg. 167)

The format is the second aspect that helps the author manage info dumps.  He has his main character write “letters” that delineate the backstory and background information. Because she has such a strong voice, these letters come across a lot better than if they were droll, tedious letters being written from Locke to Leibniz (sorry, fellas). Now, the letters are printed in Italics – which did vex some readers – but I am from the generation where we read and write beautifully in cursive, so I did not mind that at all. But this formatting helps  bridge the gap between past and current in the storyline and allows us to follow along with the main character in almost a book-within-a-book method. Very nice and not so easy to pull off in your first novel, I would think.

Ultimately, this is urban fantasy.  It has supernatural/unnatural elements in it. However, it definitely takes place in the real world, more or less as we know it. The fantastical elements are treated as if normal to this world, but hidden from us – especially because of activities of The Checquy.  However, this novel is not really about vampires and werewolves and their melodrama. It is, more or less, a mystery novel.  In fact, this is such a mystery novel that the fact that there are supernatural  goings on really does not matter as much as the mystery at hand that the main character is thrust into right at the start.

It would be enough to write a successful contemporary urban fantasy novel for one’s first published work.  To also make that novel a very interesting and engaging mystery novel does deserve a chapeau. And so, in the midst of a plotline focused on the main character and her suddenly acquired career in The Checquy, we are also following clues in a mystery case.  The mystery, by the way, is who/what is trying to kill Myfanwy Thomas?  There are a lot of possible suspects, motives, and red herrings.  The author does a superior job keeping the reader in the loop with the many options for suspects.  I did not guess the guilty…. though… I never do….

In fact, right until the end I was in suspense as to who was a good guy and who was a bad guy.  All of the characters, and there are a bunch, are distinct and interesting. I mean that, I do not mean that they are filler characters made out of cardboard. The author did a lot of work to make the supporting characters developed. Most of these characters would have successful spin-off series novels without any trouble.

Generally, the book is very enjoyable and has a lot of good things going for it. I do think it is a tad bit too lengthy, I would like to see this around 400 pages – excising about 80 pages. However, it is still a solid read and I would recommend it to everyone. Especially because this is a novel without ridiculous sex scenes, absurd romances, and blathering agendas.  There are some scenes with some seriously well-written descriptive violence – but its, as they say, “fantasy violence.”

Finally, I think one of the things that most appealed to me about this book was the concept of tossing the main character into a world in which they are clueless and overwhelmed, but yet expected to perform successfully with aplomb. This was very engaging and gave the storyline a bit of dramatic tension not solely built on the mystery or the supernatural stuff.

4 stars

Death of an Old Girl

death-of-an-old-girlI enjoy vintage mystery novels quite a bit. I finally got around to picking up Elizabeth Lemarchand’s Death of an Old Girl at the end of 2016.  It was first published in 1967 – so I do not know how “vintage” that really is – but it is the first in her relatively famous “Pollard and Toye” series. Tom Pollard and Gregory Toye are two Scotland Yard detectives.  The series runs, at least, seventeen novels. It is the first Lemarchand (1906 – 2000) I have read.

The two novels that I read prior to this one were horrible disappointments. One and two stars were earned respectively. From the first page of this novel, I foresaw a good reading experience.  There was something immediately vintage and British about this novel and I could easily see the writing was a higher caliber than my previous reads.

The setting gave me some pause – I was concerned that a vintage girl’s private school in England could be a terribly boring setting. However, I also assumed that for her first mystery, Lemarchand was writing about something with which she had a good deal of familiarity. Let me reassure readers that although this is not the most exciting of settings, it is handled very nicely and does not become boring.

It is the end of semester and the school, Meldon, is having their annual get-together wherein the “old girls” are invited for supper and a meeting and, more or less, to gossip and reminisce. Most of the “old girls” enjoyed their time at Meldon and continue to look upon the school fondly.  Unfortunately, not all of the “old girls” are as welcoming to change and the future.  There is one in particular, Beatrice Baynes, who takes a keen interest in snooping around and keeping herself insinuated in every decision at the school. She even lives in her large mansion just on the road outside of the school’s gates.

Baynes is tolerated because the school is respectful and mannered, but also because Baynes is a heavy monetary contributor. Unfortunately, her financial contributions cannot be accepted without accepting her staunch suggestions and opinions about the running and maintenance of the school.  She also is the murder victim.

The cleaning lady finds Baynes’ body stuffed behind the puppet theatre stand in the art studio.Very undignified and also a strange location for Baynes to be found generally.

The Scotland Yard detectives get involved and the story really begins to focus on their investigation.  Now, there have been many police procedurals written in the mystery genre.  I have to believe, though, that this is one of the more thorough and detailed ones. Lemarchand literally takes every step with us. We make suspect lists and timelines together. We interview suspects and witnesses with nearly excruciating detail.  Yes, the story does get a bit boring – unless you are a big fan of investigations and deductions.  Now, if you are a fan of mysteries that are actually thrillers – this is not going to interest you at all and you will be angry reading it.

There are also a number of subplots that run alongside the main storyline.  Some of these help to develop our red herrings and suspicious persons.  The subplots involve boisterous wealthy people, romantic interests, whimsical young teachers, caretakers and groundsmen, and even family connections.  When the book blurb on the back cover shares that there are a lot of people who disliked Baynes and wanted her dead – that is not even the half of it.

Some of the supporting characters are likeable, some are detestable. All of them are realistic and convincing.  I think this is what really helps keep everyone guessing at who the criminal is right until the very end.  There is no character who stands out as more suspicious or obvious than the rest. Also, there are some supporting characters who are surprisingly introduced in such a subtle way that when they begin to take an active role in the investigation, it hardly seems remarkable that they were not there all along.

The two detectives from the Yard are fine. I do think they are the most diligent and detail-oriented detectives that I have ever read about.  I do not feel, though, that I have much else to say about that. I hope that in further novels in the series their personalities will develop and I can have more remarks about them.

There is a bit of wit and banter – all good-natured and fun-loving – between the policemen. It isn’t heavy-handed sarcasm and it brought little bits of lightness to an exceedingly detailed investigation. Made the whole thing not so droll and tedious.

You can’t commit murder without taking risks,” replied Inspector Beakbane. “It often holds me back.” pg. 135

Now because the book is such a detailed examination, it makes it seem longer than it is. And that means slower reading. And that means people with short-attention spans who seek thrills and chills will dislike it. I felt this was a nice comfy, intellectual mystery. I also appreciated the motive of the criminal and felt that the crime was tidied up nicely. If Lemarchand was still alive I would gladly tell her that I truly can see the effort that she used writing this novel and that I appreciate her attention to detail.

I will definitely read the next in the series and I am glad that I read this one. I am giving it a four-star rating especially for “apparent author effort.”

4 stars

Just One Damned Thing After Another

just-one-damned-thing-after-anotherJust One Damned Thing After Another is the first in Jodi Taylor’s “The Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series.  This novel was first published in 2013; as of this review there are eight novels.  This is one of the novels that was hanging around my household and was another effort to read something other than vintage mystery or science fiction. Honestly, I am not sure what genre this novel fits in, anyway.

So, I felt that this novel had a lot of potential.  And I really like what the author wanted to do, her overall concept. But I really disliked the way she did it. This was a disappointing read for me because I wanted something better.

The main character is Madeleine Maxwell.  She is presented to the reader straightaway as a little out of the norm. She is a difficult personality and yet also very bright.  Overall, the author writes the character with a lot of wit and that makes her rather likeable.  I do not always need character-driven stories. I mean, I rarely feel it enhances the story to “connect” in some way with the characters. Many times I approach characters as “elements” of a novel and I just need them to be functional and realistic. Shame on me, I know. It is always a good thing when I do not avidly actively dislike the main character.

So there is a grand idea here. The main character is hired by an independent research facility that operates alongside of, but not entirely in concert with, a university. And perhaps with some governmental funding. Its all rather shady and there is a bit of secrecy here. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research hires and trains researchers: scientists and historians.

For time travel.

I know, I know. Everyone just grimaced and groaned. Because when has there ever been a successful novel about time travel? I get it – I see that the concept is just a sinkhole for authors. Hear me out, though….

This rendition of time travel does not involve any science. What I mean is:  there is no explanation of how the time travel works – it even reads quite a bit like a big box that gets powered up and goes Zap! into the past. Is this bad writing? No, because if you do not even try to get into how the thing works, it is a way to avoid making nonsense up about the whole thing!

And that is one of the problems I had with this book. The writing seems very flighty and all over the place. The plot is very busy and feels quite haphazard. It seemed like the author had a bunch of cool ideas she wanted her main character to experience, but that the author did not know how to weave them into a completed, homogeneous work.

The plot is really choppy and disjointed. And for such a wide open concept, all of the scenes and threads needed to be a lot smoother before this got published. Well, at least in my opinion. Since the series is on eight novels – and has a somewhat sincere following of readers, I suppose I am in the minority.  Anyway, when I say “choppy,” I mean that scenes are very quick and things happen and then there are other plot points that are mentioned and then we are given hints and a trajectory only to be whisked away from that path onto another unrelated one.

The author jams a lot of stuff in this book – but its all superficial stuff. At a Historical Research center I would truly really expect a little more depth and research on the author’s part.  I can overlook the superficial treatment of how the time travel works because its better than silly talk. But everything else cannot be that superficial, too. Maybe instead of trying to jam so much into one book, the author should have picked one general trajectory for the storyline, blended just two genres, and then written a more researched novel. Instead, this whole thing is a mess.

And there are two explicit sex scenes in this one – and neither scene is palatable. Both are near-rape scenes and obnoxious and stupid. These are the main reason I cannot recommend the book to anyone.

Finally, its painfully obvious that with all the creativity that the author has – and playing on such a large canvas – she should have been able to write a much more compelling story. It needed to be just plain old more interesting.  Now, sure, the main character is likeable; she is witty and snarky. But if readers can only appreciate the novel because of its snarky character, I think that demonstrates that it is not a completed work. It is not enough to merely write sarcasm.

2 stars

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La Comtesse

la-comtesseHere is the first “romance” novel that I have read. La Comtesse – Joan Smith (1978).  Well, to be honest, genres are kind of a messy topic anyway. I think I have read general fiction and science fiction novels with more “romance” in them – if, of course, we are speaking of the traditional definition of the word.  But I am certainly not going to define “romance,” either. So, this will be a difficult review to write and read if we cannot isolate what is being talked about.

Let me share a brief idea about why I read this novel. I don’t (in my mind) refer to this as a “romance” novel. I refer to it as a “non-machine-gun-pulp” novel.  This distinguishes it from “machine-gun-pulp.”  None of these terms are meant to be outright derogatory. I am very lazily looking at these two types of published fiction. One, theoretically marketed to appeal to a very feminine audience, the other to a very masculine audience. Both types very, very focused on the vague entertainment value other than any other sort of agenda or value. In the process of this exceedingly lazy evaluation of mine, I also have been toying with the influence of the French Revolution in every novel. Barring that, revolution in general. (Because when academics have nothing to do, we all talk about Vive La Republique etc….)

Please do not mistake anything I have said to be a serious inquiry. Really, its a boredom killer. I have dozens of these.

So, to the actual novel.  I read this thing and it took a lot longer than I would have expected. My expectations were that I would fly through this simple-minded drivel quickly and it would be as entertaining and with as much depth as a 1980s Saturday cartoon. To my sorrow, it was a slog. Pages and pages of boring. Muddy, sluggish boredom. Nothing happens. And even when the nothing that is expected happens, it is even more boring than it should be.

The main character is a fellow is a member of the aristocracy. He is vaguely “employed” to help The State find out who this audacious woman, La Comtesse, is.  This woman has been prancing around all the best places with all the best people and she is on the tip of everyone’s tongue and on the forefront of everyone’s mind. She is allegedly beautiful and charming and even a bit exotic.  However, the fellow who employs the main character thinks that she is a sly, spying hussy.

This is the biggest surprise of the whole book:  the absolute vehemence and wrath that this minor character displays toward La Comtesse.

In the end, La Comtesse is not really La Comtesse. And there is family drama. And she is not an evil hussy. And happily ever after, I guess.

Napoleon is referred to. A lot.

Its a clean novel -no sex or violence or cussing. But it also lacks in the very things that one would demand of any novel:  good dialogue, intriguing plot, red herrings/misdirections, adventure, etc.  So, if La Comtesse is to be this fascinating star and instead all of her conversations make her seem snippy and fickle, it basically tears the plot apart since the reader is entirely unconvinced of this supposed star of the Season. She is entirely undelightful.

I am not surprised that this was a tedious read or that it didn’t really interest me. I will not condemn it because it is a genre I dislike or that the plot is unappealing. I will, however, complain that it is unconvincing – and that, really, is probably one of the strongest criticisms of any novel. I am mad that it was not (and none of the characters were)… charming.

1 star

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