Jamie's Reviews > The Glass of Time

The Glass of Time by Michael Cox
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Mar 01, 2011

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Read from December 21, 2010 to January 01, 2011

I like the concept of a Victorian “Lady” and her “maid.” Having worked as some form of “assistant” for most of my adult life and nearly always hating it and feeling it’s the most contrived and unnatural sort of situation; through Victorian mysteries I’ve put a new spin on it and decided awkward though these “paid” endeavors maybe, they’re old as time. Thank goodness I never had to dress any of my bosses or brush their hair, but returning coats to Bloomingdales and running to midtown to fetch the blackberry they left in a cab isn’t far off. I’ve always been a rotten assistant, but looking at the bigger picture and seeing that relationship for what it is, I’d wager MOST people are lousy assistants.
Because I didn’t particularly enjoy the solitary, dark and underdogged world of Edward Glapthorn/Glyver, I was surprised when I ran out to buy the companion book. But, Emily Carteret was truly the only character that kept me going once I decided Edward was not only boring, but totally transparent (and no more or less evil than anyone else in the book. Cox has a thing with making all this characters pretty “evil,” or at the very least, self-oriented).
Turns out, reading about the jealous, edgy relationship between women and adding in their communication skills and daily routines made for a MUCH better read than the closed off world of his previous book. Edward didn’t have a servant and he didn’t have many friends. Emily Carteret Tansor has lots—a dead husband, a murdered lover, a secret love, and children. She has more to lose than Edward ever did, though she still has the base sense of good at the core that Cox is so found of (and is totally unrealistic).
While Cox moves a story along skillfully enough, after reading two of his books, I can say his characters tend to loose some reality as his books progress. It’s almost as if he keeps plotline on one side of a balance and his very involved characters in another. As the plot thickens the characters loose some of their 3D realism, a sacrificial offering to his lot momentum.
Because The Glass of Time focuses on a lady’s story and introduces her details, habits and procedures, she is spared the dull solitude that enveloped Edward Glyver before her. Through hair brushing, small talk and tea times we’re shown another matriarchal side to Cox’s tale, which felt so empty in the previous book.
Even Cox’s additions and tidbits on the manor house and Alice/Esparanza’s interpretations on the grounds and surrounds of her new home and town—the red and gold room, the half-finished portrait of lady Tansor, her cubby of an attic room or her ardent wish to retreat into herself and read a good mystery novel alone—all provide a level of additional interest I really found missing from the first book.
So, while the deterioration of character believability (and this is Victorian fiction, so I never expect too much realism) is always crumbling in order to maintain a plotline in Cox’s books, it’s still very much a good read, compelling and, if not too surprising, at least engaging.

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