This latest volume in the Temeraire series kept me up all night reading, despite having to work in the morning. A decided return to the fast pace andThis latest volume in the Temeraire series kept me up all night reading, despite having to work in the morning. A decided return to the fast pace and action of the first book. I loved it!...more
I love Fred Vargas. Her books are amazing, intricate, twisty matrixes (the last making them difficult to talk about), filled with strange but endearinI love Fred Vargas. Her books are amazing, intricate, twisty matrixes (the last making them difficult to talk about), filled with strange but endearing characters and beautifully unexpected imagery. Commissaire Jean-Baptisite Adamsberg has already displaced Lord Peter Whimsy in my affections, and he is on his way to dislodging Mr. Holmes from his long-held position as my favorite detective. Yes, they're that good....more
Despite both the title and the cover copy (the blurb on this site is much better), Alice is not the main character. She shares that honor equally withDespite both the title and the cover copy (the blurb on this site is much better), Alice is not the main character. She shares that honor equally with her two brothers, William and Henry James. What William, Alice, and Henry combined knew eventually adds up to a solution to Jack the Ripper's identity. (I don't know enough about current scholarship to know if this solution holds actual water, but it hangs together well enough for the purposes of the narrative.)
Unfortunately, there are hurdles for the reader in reaching that solution, not just for the characters, starting with Henry's introduction. When readers first meet him, he has overindulged in a couple ways at a dinner party and is unable to comprehend much of what is going on around him. So he decides to walk home, naturally gets lost, and then loses control of multiple bodily functions. Ew and ugh. This is decidedly not my favorite way to introduce a character ever, and it made it very difficult to relate to him in later chapters, because I just kept thinking about -- well, I'll leave it at 'ew.'
But I had borrowed this book from a friend to whom I'd mentioned that it looked interesting, so I kept going. Then I met Alice, the convalescent woman who would solve the mystery! Only.... her convalescence is portrayed as more the result of personality quirk than physical affliction and possibly even a weakness of character. Even Alice herself acknowledged that keeping to her bed was in part affectation - though the headaches seemed real enough. So while the cover hinted at a capable yet disabled character, I'm not sure that's what the text provided (there may be an argument to be made that she had a real albeit undiagnosed psychological disorder -- however, one might expect her brother William, an early psychologist, to suggest the possibility). Also, I just plain didn't like Alice very much for the first half of the book. My opinion started to change when she started having people other than her brothers and Katherine to interact with, particularly Jane. I liked Jane.
Which brings me to William, the brother who was still living in America. (Both Alice and Henry had moved to London well before the novel begins.) William was invited to assist in the Jack the Ripper investigation -- and the other Jameses invited themselves along for the ride. William has an odd interlude of exoticising/eroticising a young Jewish woman whom he met during his investigation which I found uncomfortable to read but understandable, I suppose, for a man of his time even if he is being written in the modern day. Speaking of uncomfortable, that brings me to the weird push-pull between Anglophilia and American Exceptionalism that ran throughout the book. I think that tension was most pronounced in William's chapters -- I am hoping so, because as a character trait it's slightly interesting, because then that makes it intentional.
I did enjoy the revelation, climax, and epilogue. But I found too much of the book wordy* and uninteresting** to recommend.
* William's visit to one of the Ripper's crime scenes includes paragraphs of reverie on the mind's inability/unwillingness to accept the horror of what the eyes see. (The squeamish will probably appreciate the relative paucity of descriptions for the other senses in the scene.)
** Dinner parties, interesting. Dinner party planning (with discussion of characters the readers don't know and won't really get to know), uninteresting....more
This book started off somewhat interesting, including characters caught between the need for intelligence and the rights of suspects post-9/11. I suspThis book started off somewhat interesting, including characters caught between the need for intelligence and the rights of suspects post-9/11. I suspected I'd disagree with it politically but hoped it would be a good read anyway. Halfway through, though, it turned from political thriller into a bad romance novel in which I hoped the protagonist and his handler/love interest would never meet again. She continued to believe in him despite serious questions within the CIA and refused to pull him in, becausetheirloveissotrue. Their romantic heart-to-heart, which lead to her absolute faith in him, consisted of her telling him about how she lost her virginity to a biker at a party. Yeah. But because she trusts him, he is able to single-handedly save the day.
I can't believe I finished the advanced reader. Worst book I've read in years....more
Extremely addictive - I stayed up all night reading, my mom borrowed it and stayed up all night reading, and then my sister stayed up all night readinExtremely addictive - I stayed up all night reading, my mom borrowed it and stayed up all night reading, and then my sister stayed up all night reading it and bought the rest of the series in the morning. Quick, fun, no nutritional value whatsoever: literary crack. ...more