Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #48: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

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On Goodreads there are a couple of interesting things to note about Elizabeth Wein’s celebrated novel Code Name Verity. First, most folks are disinclined to really review the book for fear of spoiling. Second, it’s mysteriously classified as Young Adult. As regards my first observation: While I understand the difficulty in explaining the book and why it is so appealing without giving everything away, I don’t know if I find it that difficult to tell readers why it’s a great novel. I’m also perplexed as to why this is classified as YA lit on Goodreads. I don’t think my library has it as such. I’m not familiar with Wein, so perhaps that’s her normal genre. I suppose it’s possible, since I don’t recollect Wein describing either lead characters’ ages, that they are in their late teens; I just got the impression they were in their early-to-mid 20s. Does that classify as YA? I don’t know these things.

Does any of that really matter? Probably not. I loved this book and so should you. If you don’t, I guess that’s ok, but I will judge you silently. Code Name Verity tells the tale of two best friends, Maddie and *name withheld for spoilery-ness*, living in England during World War II. Both ladies are heavily involved in the war effort. Maddie is an aspiring pilot and ***** is a wireless operator cum spy for the British RAF. There’s more to it than that but when you pare things down to essentials, that’s all you need to know. This story is about a beautiful friendship between two strong, multi-faceted British women and their struggles to survive one of the most horrific experiences in recent history.

Wein’s writing is thoughtful and provokes myriad emotions, though I do expect there aren’t many WWII stories that don’t elicit wonder, heartbreak, and admiration from me. I guess that’s my major caveat to this whole review. Anyone who has read my reviews over this past year knows I have a penchant for period pieces (say that five times fast), especially British ones. But though there have been many stories from this time period, I don’t recall having read that many regarding the roles allotted to women of the time, if they weren’t nurses,  in a factory, or staying at home with their children. Maddie and her friend’s story is new, to me at least, and is thoroughly enjoyable.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about this book. It’s quite admirable that Wein has chosen to write what many have labeled YA without one of the worst clichés of the genre: a love triangle. I guess that is somewhat spoilery but really it shouldn’t matter. This story is about two women and their friendship, and men don’t really come into the picture at all; that felt like a brave choice on Wein’s part. Read this, seriously.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #47: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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My book club is the only reason I read anything that isn’t fiction. Sometimes I drag myself through our non-fiction books, sometimes I find myself enjoying them more than I ever expected. The latter was the case this month as we met to discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta Lacks was a poor African-American woman living in Baltimore, MD, in the 40s. She and her husband Day (David) were raising four of their five children when Henrietta began complaining about feeling something growing in her womb. She put off going to a doctor, got pregnant, had her fifth and final child, and finally went to Johns Hopkins to see what it was growing inside her. As it turns out, Henrietta had cervical cancer. Despite aggressive radium treatment, her health did not improve; Henrietta’s cancer spread, quickly, throughout her body and quickly took her life at the incredibly young age of 30. Before her death, however, one of her doctors removed some tissues from her tumor in order to study them. These cells turned out to be the first (or one of the first) immortal cells in modern history, and paved the way for an incredible amount of medical advances including treatments for cancer.

Skloot’s book balances a history of the science of cell cultures and medical research with that of the family Henrietta left behind. Her four living children and widow were completely ignorant of their mother’s contributions to medicine for 20 years after her death. Even after they were made aware, their lack of a strong education left them ill-prepared to confront the myriad scientific papers, books, magazines, etc., with which they were presented by scientists and doctors either too busy or too socially inept to dumb things down enough for them to understand. This left each family member paranoid, angry, and uninformed about the tissues from the long dead mother they barely knew. Over about a decade, Rebecca traveled to Baltimore and Henrietta’s hometown in Clover, VA, to learn more about the mysterious source of the now-famous HeLa cells.

This book is an easier read than I anticipated. Skloot does a decent job of bringing the scientific aspects of this story to a level that is easily digestible by your average reader. There are definitely times when my eyes glazed over a little, but for the most part even the chapters that covered how the research was done, what it was used for, and the implications of human tissue studies kept me engrossed enough to complete the book. The story of Henrietta’s family is a far more interesting one, as it’s a human story of a family that, despite having a mother whose cells paved the way for tons of medical advancements, cannot afford health insurance to cover even regular doctor visits.

Immortal Life successfully provoked a lot of discussion around ethics and science in my book club’s meeting this month. Skloot does a good job of not really pointing you one way or the other; instead, she lays out both the pros and cons of human tissue testing and sampling and leaves the reader to form their own opinions. What Skloot does obviously intend, however, is that we begin to think about the humanity behind the cold science. HeLa cells came from a woman, a person; she was a mother, wife, cousin, aunt, and daughter. Perhaps we as a society would do better to remember that, rather than viewing these cells as a commodity to be traded in a capitalist market.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #46: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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It’s been a few years since I read Marisha Pessl’s much-lauded debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, so all I’m left with now is a vague sense of mild enjoyment and a memory that yes, I did want to see what else she came up with. Well now, almost a decade later, she has released her second novel, Night Film. Naturally I requested the library hold it for me and I dug into it as soon as I could.

Scott McGrath is a disgraced former investigative reporter living alone in Manhattan, drinking lots of Scotch, taking lengthy late-night runs, and squeezing in hurried visits with his five-year-old daughter Sam when he can. The novel opens with McGrath on one of these late night runs; all seems normal until he encounters a mysterious young woman in a red coat. She seems to be following him but once on the subway to return home, he loses her. It’s not until a few days later that he sees the news of Ashley Cordova’s surprise suicide at the young age of 24. McGrath is immediately intrigued – Ashley is the daughter of one of the world’s most famous, most reclusive film directors, Stanislas Cordova. The senior Cordova also happens to be the reason McGrath no longer has a permanent job or any kind of reputation in the journalism world. Years previously a mysterious source had called, claiming Cordova was up to nefarious things at his remote estate, The Peak. McGrath’s dogged investigation didn’t result in any interesting truths coming to light – just his being sued for slander and libel and losing all credibility as a writer, not to mention the dissolution of his marriage. Once McGrath sees the news of Ashley’s death, and the fact that she was the mysterious young woman he saw on his run, he will stop at nothing to finally get to the bottom of the enigma that is Stanislas Cordova.

Overtly, this novel is your run of the mill mystery/thriller, and as such, isn’t breaking new ground or doing anything particularly different with the genre. Pessl can write well and crafts beautifully descriptive pages, allowing the reader to almost picture the prose as a film. In fact, I think this novel would make a great movie (I’m already picturing Ben Affleck as Scott McGrath but perhaps it’s because he’s everywhere these days). It’s been a long time since I read her other novel, but I do think that Pessl seems to be cultivating a style whereby she attempts to craft unique stories in old/tired tropes, mainly by inserting odd pieces within the frame of her overall narrative. That probably was confusing. What I mean to say is Pessl uses fake non-fiction throughout her books. In Calamity Physics, if I’m remembering correctly, she uses a course syllabus to take the reader through the central murder mystery. With Night Film, Pessl heavily uses things like internet sites, newspaper articles, photographs, and McGrath’s own notes to add to the mystery of Ashley Cordova. At times it’s an interesting way to add to the story. Sometimes, however, it seems a little gimmicky.

Overall I enjoyed the novel, though it runs a little long. I find myself less patient the older I get, so nearly 600 pages is a lot to get through – especially because at times, Pessl gets a little wordy and flowery in her descriptions. The pace is generally nice and tight, however, and by the last 100 pages or so it’s hard to put the book down. There are two supporting characters, Nora and Hopper, which are also quite interesting and nicely contrast our hero. My only complaint really, aside from the length, is the end. When we learn the truth, it’s not really all that satisfying an explanation. That isn’t to say it isn’t realistic or good or anything, it’s just kind of a let-down. I have a vague sense that I was let down by the ending of Pessl’s first novel as well, so perhaps that’s her thing. I recommend this for any fan of literary mysteries.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #45: A Question of Honor by Charles Todd

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The recently-released fifth installment of Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford series, A Question of Honor, is a more personal ordeal for our courageous heroine Bess Crawford. The year is 1918 and WWI, though drawing to a close, still seems to be an endless parade of battles, wounds, and sorrow for young Bess, a nursing sister for the English right along the front lines in France. She is taken back to her adolescence in India with her father’s regiment when a young Indian man on one of her tables tells her he has seen Captain Thomas Wade, a soldier long thought dead. Over a decade previous, Wade had been under suspicion for the murder of his parents and rather than face inquiry fled and was believed dead at the bottom of the Khyber Pass. Before Bess can get more information from the young man, he dies from the gunshot wound he’d arrived at the hospital with, and Bess is ready to chalk it up to deathbed hallucinations. That is, until she sees Captain Wade herself and determines to do everything in her power to prove one way or another what happened to Wade’s parents and clear her father’s name of any dishonorable flexibility he may have shown the young soldier.

I enjoyed this book but I will admit it felt a little drawn out for me. I’ve always liked the Bess Crawford mysteries – they have an admirable heroine, interesting supporting casts, and an early 20th-century setting, all of which appeal to me. I wasn’t as interested in the truth behind the murders, especially once you learn more about the victims. Bess discovers that his parents aren’t the only people Captain Wade is accused of murdering – three members of the Caswell family were discovered shot dead in their sitting room not long after Wade was seen leaving their grounds. Everyone believes Wade killed his own parents to prevent them from hearing such dreadful accounts of their son, since that is the only possible explanation for a young man of his character to commit parricide. The Caswells, as it turns out, were horrible people who took in children as boarders while their parents lived abroad. Many of the children suffered terrible emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the Caswells and their monster of a daughter Gwendolyn. Suffice it to say they sucked and you begin to care less and less whether Wade did indeed commit the acts.

Often with the Crawford novels, Bess has the luck to run into the exact person she needs to question just when she really needs to question them. This would be one thing if she were always in her hometown of Somerset, outside of London. She isn’t. Throughout most of the series she’s not even a mile from the front lines in a tent tending to wounded soldiers. The idea that providence would hand her such convenient subjects to question is at first easy enough to swallow. By the fifth novel now, I’m having a little more trouble buying it. It’s a small world but is it THAT small?

I found the resolution to the mystery satisfying but a bit abrupt. I thought that the question of Wade’s guilt had an obvious answer from the outset, but it was a pleasant enough journey getting there. I like the settings – it’s a British period piece after all, they had me at hello – and Todd (a mother/son writing duo with connections to my home state, NC) does a lovely job of writing vivid scenes. I can easily imagine the places and people with which Bess is surrounded. I just felt like at least three-fourths of the way through the book I wanted them to go ahead and wrap up the mystery. And get to the obvious question most Bess Crawford fans surely must want to know – Will she end up with Simon?

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #44: Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

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Charmed Thirds is the third in Megan McCafferty’s series on Jessica Darling; this time we find her at Columbia University in NYC and finally free of her sad Jersey hometown of Pineville. Now that she and Marcus Flutie have figured out how they feel about each other, Jessica hopes things will go smoothly for the budding couple. Such an option would make for a boring book, however. Naturally, a cross-country relationship becomes difficult for the pair and Jessica spends her college career figuring out what to do with her life, how to afford dinner, whether she should sleep with her married grad student advisor from her summer project, and what Marcus’ one-word postcards mean, among many other things.

I didn’t love this book as much as I’d loved the first two entries in the series. Perhaps it’s because it felt like more of the same, I’m not sure. Oh Jessica’s neurotic. Marcus and Jessica have a ‘will they/won’t they’ thing going on. Jessica’s parents just don’t understand. Etc.

I think really what it boils down to is that I’m starting to see a lack of growth in our darling Jessica (ha, she’d HATE me for that one) and if you’ve followed my reviews at all this year, you know I struggle with unlikeable characters. That isn’t to say Jessica has become unlikeable, it’s just that her reactions, even at 22 (we get four years of Columbia crammed into one book) feel way too similar to those of her sixteen-year-old self. I won’t pretend that I was the font of maturity at 22 that I am today at 34 (I need sarcasm fonts), but I know I wasn’t the same person I was in high school. Jessica has changed but she continues to exhibit the narcissistic behavior common in teens and that she refuses to acknowledge. This is a really long way of saying that I probably didn’t like this book as much as the ones prior to it because I didn’t have any sympathy for Jessica’s plight. She brings most of the crap in this book on herself.

I’ll pick up the next two books in the series (I think there are just 5, hopefully) just for completeness sake. I will only hope that book four doesn’t spend the entire novel worrying about whether Jessica and Marcus will finally get it together. McCafferty has spent three novels on that issue, I think it can be put to rest for a little while.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #43: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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A friend lent me Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches some time ago, because the subject matter seemed right in my wheelhouse: witches, vampires, England, forbidden love, etc. Due to the length and the need to make it to 52 books I put it off for some time, but now that we’re entering the final stretch of the year I felt comfortable enough taking on a lengthier book. I won’t say that I think the book merits its length, but I did enjoy it and will definitely check out the next in the series (my friend lent me that one too).

Discovery takes the reader to Oxford, where Diana Bishop is studying alchemy in the famous Bodleian library. One afternoon she requests a manuscript that she finds is bewitched and that’s when her life starts to get interesting. Diana is the last in a long line of Bishop women hailing from New England, all talented witches in their own right. Having lost both her parents as a young child, Diana has decided she wants nothing to do with her witchy heritage and for 30-some years has done everything possible to avoid it; witchcraft certainly didn’t save her parents and may have had something to do with their murder, so why on Earth would Diana take up the torch? When the manuscript Diana is studying starts to ‘speak’ to her she decides immediately to send it back and ignore it permanently, but the rest of the supernatural world has other ideas. Soon enough other witches, daemons and vampires are crowding the tables in the Bodleian in hopes of catching a glimpse of a long-lost, long-sought manuscript and the method in which the witch was able to grasp it. Among Diana’s watchers is Matthew Clairmont, a centuries-old vampire with (naturally) handsome looks and a fiercely protective nature. Soon enough, the two fall in love and shenanigans ensue.

I liked this book but, I give it 3.5 stars because though it’s entertaining and the writing isn’t bad or anything, it’s just too long. This is 580 pages of tiny print. A LOT is crammed into this novel and I wondered if a lot of expository, historical stuff couldn’t have been edited out. Perhaps for more scientifically inclined folks it was more interesting but any of the descriptions of Diana’s research I skimmed over – and there’s plenty to be had. Some of the scenes with Matthew and Diana are repetitive, though their courtship is charming. The characters themselves are for the most part well-developed, with the exception of Diana’s aunts in America. It might be just me, but I felt no connection to them at all. I like Diana  – she’s independent and can take care of herself, for the most part, and doesn’t let her new boyfriend (born about 1500 years previously) run all over her. Matthew can be a smidge clichéd, but he isn’t as creepy as say, Edward Cullen, so I’ll allow it. Overall this book is entertaining enough and ends with a cliffhanger, so I’ll be checking out the second in the series soon.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #42: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has been on everyone’s radar for a while now, and I’ve seen more than a handful reviews of it here on CBR5. In an effort not to be redundant (or give too much away), I’ll be pretty brief in this review. Gone Girl tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, an unhappily married couple waking up on their 5th wedding anniversary, going through the motions as always. Everything seems good (or as good as it can be when both people in a marriage loathe their spouse) until Nick gets a call from a neighbor; the front door to their house is wide open, and their cat is loose in the yard. As it is completely unheard of for Amy to be so scatterbrained, Nick rushes home only to discover his wife has disappeared.

Police arrive soon after and, seeing the overturned ottoman and broken glass, figure some sort of foul play is involved. Naturally, their suspicions eventually turn to the husband. Nick isn’t doing himself any favors by smiling inappropriately for cameras and lying at just about every opportunity. The novel switches back and forth between Nick’s point of view during the ordeal and some of Amy’s diary entries from the past. As readers we are forced to wonder which of our narrators is telling the truth.

Personally, I was also feeling forced to wonder if I cared. I obviously did enough to finish the book, and though I loathed pretty much every character, I did have that “can’t put this down” feeling (once I made it past about 80 pages or so anyway). I always struggle with how to react to stories about loathsome people. Because, let me be clear: Nick and Amy suck balls. Nick is a self-centered whiny baby who can’t stand for anyone to think ill of him. Amy is a controlling type A freak, basically, whose constant ‘tests’ on Nick’s love serve as obvious reasons why their marriage is in shambles. I can’t go into either character too much without giving things away. Amy’s parents are pretty awful and self-centered (is it just me or does popular culture ALWAYS portray shrinks as terrible parents? Is that true? It can’t be ALL bad…). Nick’s twin sister is fairly inoffensive, except that she allows everyone to call her Go (short for Margo) – which totally irritated me. Dumb nicknames often do.

I saw the twist coming a mile away. I can’t guarantee that I didn’t somehow glean it from some review or synopsis somewhere, but I don’t recall having read too much about it going in. This book wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t, at least in my opinion, deserving of all the hullabaloo it seems to have received. But hey, 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight are crazy bestsellers as well so I really should have been more disillusioned already. I am wondering in hindsight if Flynn really intended this as a mystery; it’s definitely more of a character study than a whodunit. The writing isn’t terrible, and it is a page-turner for sure, but I just feel like anyone paying attention wouldn’t have been surprised by anything in this novel. A lot of folks on Goodreads and whatnot have said they liked everything but how it ends. I disagree; I think the ending is pretty on par with the rest of the book. What we discover about the main character(s) by the end of the novel completely fits the character sketch Flynn has painstakingly drawn in the first two thirds. The choices the characters make at the end are really the only ones they CAN make, though they may not be neatly tied up as is often preferable in a mystery. Check this one out mainly so you have something to say when everyone else discusses it, but please, temper your expectations.

PS – I also didn’t manage to avoid casting news for the film they’re making of this book. While I don’t dislike the choices, I do like to picture the people myself without Hollywood influence. Minor details.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #40-41: Lady Thief by Kay Hooper and My Best Friend’s Girl by Dorothy Koomson

In my review on Second Helpings I mentioned having traveled to the beach this weekend. Since I was leaving for just two days I didn’t bring a lot of books with me (just Second Helpings and Gone Girl, my book club’s August selection). When I finished the former, I realized I wasn’t really in the mood to start the latter, or anything which would require much thought. Luckily someone in my family likes crappy beach reads and left a few in a basket at my grandmother’s beach condo.  I’ll review both books in one entry since I have little to say about either one.

First: Lady Thief by Kay Hooper

Lady Thief looked like a romance novel – a Regency one at that – so naturally I was immediately on board. Boy, things must have changed since Hooper wrote this in 1980. If this was my introduction to historical romance I’m not sure anyone could have convinced me to try any more. This book is terrible. Ok, not TERRIBLE like ‘I can’t finish this’ TERRIBLE; it’s just terrible like ‘Is this really all it takes to publish? I can do that’ terrible.  What’s wrong with this book, you might ask? Well first off. There. Is. No. Sex. Ever. We get a couple hot and heavy kisses but that’s it. Secondly the love interest for the heroine is pretty much a wet blanket. Thirdly – the side plot (totally unnecessary in a less than 200-page book) has our heroine’s sister falling head over heels in love with a stranger on page 20 after no more than three sentences of dialogue. It’s basically “Oh hey hot stranger, what’s up” and he says “Oh hey” and she says “I love you let’s get married.” Ok, those aren’t real quotes but I felt that was an accurate description. I won’t waste more typing energy on this one – skip it.

Second: My Best Friend’s Girl by Dorothy Koomson

This book is your standard ‘chick’ lit in the vein of Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin or Jane Green. Kamryn and Adele were the best of friends for over a decade until one evening Adele accidentally reveals that Kamryn’s fiancé is the one night stand that caused her to become a single mom. A couple years have passed and Kamryn is living on her own in Leeds (not London as before) and working as a marketing director in a national department store. Her 32nd birthday is going swimmingly until she receives word from Adele that she is dying and she needs to see her. Adele has leukemia and her dying wish is that Kamryn, a woman who had never wanted children, adopt her daughter Tegan. Naturally she does and the story covers what it means to forgive, forget, love and be a family or whatever else you could put on a book jacket. This story is inoffensive. I neither liked nor disliked it, I just consumed it. It’s nothing new and it’s fairly predictable, but the writing was decent and the characters pretty relatable (Kamryn has a lot of characteristics with which I identify). I was more embarrassed to realize how long it took me to realize the main character was black than anything else I have taken away from it. Apparently I’m not as well rounded as I thought.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #39: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

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Because I’m a little bit OCD and try to do things in order, I’d put off reading Second Helpings by Meg McCafferty because I had other books checked out that were due earlier, or were for book club. Luckily this past weekend I got to the point where I allowed myself to dive in on my short beach trip, because Jessica Darling is perfect poolside fare. I read it in a day.

For the uninitiated, Jessica Darling is a teenage girl navigating life and love in boring Pineville, New Jersey. Her best friend Hope moved away after the untimely death of her older brother Heath (OD) in the first entry in the series, leaving Jessica struggling to continue life as normal. We open the second entry with Jessica getting ready to leave for a creative writing summer camp in an effort to get away from all things Pineville (especially ‘He-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless’ aka Marcus Flutie) before returning to complete her senior year in high school. Her parents still don’t get her, her sister is still the perfect daughter, the ‘Clueless Crew’ is still clueless and Marcus still occupies nearly every thought in her teenage mind despite every effort to the contrary.

I won’t go over too much of the plot; this story is entertaining but not necessarily new. It might be worth noting that this novel was written about a decade ago, so it might have been new at its time. The story moves quickly enough, the pace mimicking how fast time flies when you’re immersed in the dramatic happenings of high school life. Jessica is still funny, abrasive, smart and cripplingly unsure of her own identity or self-worth. She’s what most of us were like in some way or another. Marcus is still infuriatingly charming and mysterious but with an obvious affection for our heroine. One of my favorite people in the book is Jessica’s grandmother Gaddie – a spitfire of a 90-year-old whose walker has ribbons to coordinate with her outfits and often tells it all like it is. I don’t recall meeting her in Sloppy Firsts, but I’m glad we did in this book.

I will wrap by simply encouraging folks to check out this series (I’ve already requested the third entry from my library). The heroine is endearingly neurotic; in Jessica we can all find something familiar and hopefully look back at some of our own smile- (or grimace-) inducing moments while reading her story.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #38: Wings of Fire by Charles Todd

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Usually when a book involves a mystery, a post-WWI-era British setting and tortured souls I get on board. With Charles Todd’s Wings of Fire, the second in a long-running series about Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard, this was not the case. I am a big fan of Charles Todd’s other mystery series on WWI nurse Bess Crawford (and eagerly await any new installments), so I’d given Rutledge a try. The first entry A Test of Wills, I do recall reading but little else. The second is equally forgettable and has sealed the fate of the scruffy, voice-hearing, depressive detective.

Wings finds Rutledge back in London awaiting assignment on a case of Ripper-like stabbings plaguing the city; his superior, Bowles has different ideas and sends him off to Cornwall to look into the sudden deaths of three members of a family (one of whom is the poet whose work gave voice to all Rutledge’s inner feelings about his war experiences). One of the surviving relatives simply cannot conceive of her cousin (? – I’m honestly not exactly sure how Rachel is related to Nicholas here, and it all seems somewhat incestual really but I think they’re cousins but only by marriage) doing such a thing and calls in a favor to a friend with connections at the Yard.

Initially Rutledge is hesitant to differ from the local constable’s prognosis on the three deaths. Olivia Marlowe and Nicholas Cheney obviously drank overdoses of laudanum on purpose; Stephen FitzHugh (I am not 100% sure that was his last name, I’ll explain my confusion later) fell down a tall staircase, his clumsiness due to having half his foot cut off in the war and died of a broken neck. The deeper Rutledge looks at the family, however, the stranger things seem and a pattern of accidental deaths over the years has Rutledge questioning everything he ever thought about the authoress of such beloved poems.

This book dragged on like nobody’s business. Perhaps it’s because the central characters (or at least the ones igniting the central plot) are dead at the outset of the novel. Such little interaction with them left me unconcerned whether the deaths were truly suicide/accident or were more nefarious. The more I got to know about Olivia and Nicholas, the less I liked them and the less I cared to find the truth. That’s good because it took Todd FOREVER to get us there. Normally I like to read a mystery in which slowly, over the course of reading, clues appear and once you reach the end you can piece them together to solve the mystery. In this particular book, we spend so much time in Rutledge’s head going over and over ‘evidence’ he turns up in his head. It gets rather repetitive, since he has very little aside from intuition, to go on.

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