Thursday, May 29, 2008

Historical Novels Review: SEPULCHRE

Here's the second of my two reviews from the Historical Novels Review May 2008 issue.

The goal of HNR reviews: Reviews are geared toward our fellow readers. In 150-300 words, our incisive, insightful reviews provide an overview of the book’s plot and setting as well as critical commentary.

Kate Mosse, Putnam, $29.95 (NCR), pb, 560pp, 978-0-399-15467-6

SEPULCHRE is a tale of double crosses, murder, and the occult set in the 19th and 21st centuries, the interwoven story of Léonie Vernier in France in 1891, and American Meredith Martin in 2007. Meredith is visiting France for research on her biography of Claude Debussy – and to learn the truth about her mysterious French ancestors. A chance encounter leads Meredith to a piece of nineteenth century music known as "The Sepulchre", and a pack of Tarot cards painted by Léonie Vernier more than a century earlier.

Léonie and Meredith's paths cross – in time and place – again at the Domain de la Cade, outside the town of Rennes-les-Bains, in the Pyrenees of southwest France. The Domain was home to Léonie in the nineteenth century, and an eerily familiar grand hotel for Meredith in 2007. The site of a series of tragedies for Léonie, the Domain also houses an ancient sepulchre which Meredith must find and open – to learn the truth of Léonie's story, and Meredith's past.

Mosse does an excellent job with pacing – the story, though complex, moves quickly and well. The mystery is unique and the historical detail excellent; she has successfully combined historical and speculative fiction elements into a cohesive whole. And while the language and phrasing can be simplistic, even trite, and the characters somewhat lacking in depth, the concept is unique and story itself is still strong. Overall a very enjoyable read.

No comments:

Post a Comment