by Andrea Penrose
I keep trying to find an engrossing new historical mystery series such as Laurie King’s Holmes-Russell series or Anne Perry’s great Victorian-Edwardian series of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. Or even Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Curses, foiled again.
The characterizations were cardboard and pedestrian and the mystery was dull. She seemed to fashion characters out of what she thought was popular or intriguing rather than characters that she herself was really invested in. Spunky talented heroine ahead of her time. Powerful attractive rich keenly intelligent hero, who is more than what he seems. 2 ragamuffin street urchins who the heroine has “adopted.” Awwwww. Various friends and allies which are introduced throughout the book and will no doubt make appearances in later novels. She seemed more interested in setting the stage for future books than making this one engrossing. Well, I guess I’m the one that got away. The villains and the victims were mustache-twirling stereotypes and I couldn’t keep them straight. The story was told, but with little wit or depth of observation, shock, or twists. Instead of making the dull and every day interesting, she managed to make the intriguing and compelling (Rare tomes, secret societies, nefarious secrets, dark forbidden Alchemy, mysterious symbols, etc. etc.) dull. There was not a moment that I felt suspense or tension.
It is very light, and for that, it was well written. I appreciate the fact that she didn’t jump into romantic clichés between the two main characters and will save them for subsequent books. She seems to have done some research, although a few less “Bloody hells” and similar ejaculations (Hell’s Teeth!) would have been welcome. Just don’t look for any substance underneath the form and trappings. I plodded along until past the halfway mark and then had to skip through to the end.
October 12, 2020