**spoiler alert** Two stars despite some positive attributes because the characterizations were really lame. The narrator, Hugo, is unattractive, fine**spoiler alert** Two stars despite some positive attributes because the characterizations were really lame. The narrator, Hugo, is unattractive, fine; but his behavior is wildly inconsistent, which is not okay. He's neurotic and delicate, almost fainting on several occasions, but at the end he's able to perform heroic surgery on himself when he's wounded? And that's just one example of the way his delineation doesn't hold up. The other characters are equally erratic. Hugo is madly in love with "savage girl" -- the wild teenager his parents adopt as a way of proving the superiority of nurture over nature -- and she rebuffs him, which makes sense since he is whiny and weak, but at the end she marries him because he noticed she had a blemish in her eye and some soothsayer told her the first man to notice this flaw would be her husband? The parents who adopt this girl are portrayed as strong at the beginning, but once things go south they fall apart and go MIA? I feel Zimmerman makes people act as she needs for them to act in service of the plot, rather than have the plot move forward as a consequence of the characters.
Other people have mentioned good writing and lots of authentic period details, and I concur, but if the characters don't hold together that's the kiss of death for me. Can't imagine reading another book by this author even though the subject she writes about -- history in New York -- is my favorite....more
Well written, if slow-paced, and seemingly as much of a societal description of the era as a mystery. I thought the language and the tone were very auWell written, if slow-paced, and seemingly as much of a societal description of the era as a mystery. I thought the language and the tone were very authentic – quite Austen like, but without the impish humor and with a lot more awareness of lower-class mores.
I liked the characters and was able to stay with the story; but I have to say that the denouement was disappointing, as there was absolutely no surprise or twist to it.
I might try another one, just for the heck of it; but the series apparently didn't fly, as there are no more books in it, and if they're all this obvious, I can see why....more
I was really up for this book as this is one of my favorite plots -- a current day individual solves a mystery from the past, with ghosts thrown in. AI was really up for this book as this is one of my favorite plots -- a current day individual solves a mystery from the past, with ghosts thrown in. Add to that a great setting -- London -- and what could hold more promise?
The good stuff first. Beverly Swerling is a decent writer, her characters are emotionally consistent, she clearly has a good grasp of history and the academia surrounding it. Even the plot, though of course unrealistic and over-the-top, kept my interest, because unrealistic and over-the-top is what I expect in this sort of fiction.
Here is where it fell short: the characters felt cliched, and therefore flat. Annie Kendall, the heroine, is a spunky former alcoholic, eager to redeem her reputation by scoring a historical coup; but somehow she never emerged as a quirky, three dimensional and unpredictable individual. Her boyfriend was an absolute cliche of the romantic hero: a celebrated political talk show star, incredibly handsome and of course sensitive, witty, considerate, AND a great lover. His immediate interest in Annie, soon evolving into love, just didn't feel realistic in a guy who would have had women falling at his feet. And of course there was his spunky mother, another too-perfect character, the wise rabbi who assists them -- none of them sprang to life for me.
Most readers seemed to have preferred the portion of the book that takes place in the medieval era, but I found Dom Justin, the monk who gets involved in the Avignon pope conspiracy, unpleasant and sanctimonious at best. He succumbs once to the attractions of Rebecca, daughter of "The Jew of Holborn" and then spends all his time lashing himself, and her, for his lapse -- basically not caring that she is carrying his child, and protecting himself, as the "superior male" while she takes the risks and does the thinking.
The villain, or villains, are not adequately fleshed out, nor was the denouement the least scary to me, as I had no doubt but what Annie would defeat the bad guys handily and get her man, in the time honored fashion of this genre.
The challenge of a writer in this situation is to create characters sufficiently real that you forget what the rules of the genre dictate and let yourself get swept away in the moment. That never happened to me.
So an adequate, B- experience when it could have been an A....more