reviews: the physick book of deliverance dane and

11 07 2009

I finished Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane several days ago, and I’m still not sure what I think about it.  When I read the description in the book jacket, I couldn’t resist.  It’s another one of those stories about a modern-day academic finding evidence of some historical mystery with narratives that alter between the present and the past.  I seem drawn to these, but I haven’t found many recently that are satisfying as I expect them to be.

In this case, Connie, a graduate student studying history at Harvard, is asked by her new-age mother to spend the summer living and cleaning her grandmother’s long neglected house so it can be sold.  Connie finds a Bible with a hollow key that contains a rolled up bit of parchment that says Deliverance Dane.  Her quest to discover the meaning of those words leads her into a history of witchcraft – one that connects to her own family.

As I’ve already said, Connie’s narrative in the present is interspersed with narratives from the past.  I found that it was the latter that interested me the most.  If anything, I would have preferred more glimpses into the past and less of a focus on Connie’s present.  Her journey didn’t really interest me or surprise me, and I also found the writing in those passages more jarring than the most historical tone used in the passages that narrated moments related to Deliverance Dane and her female descendants.

Next, I turned to the second novel in Andrew Pepper’s Pyke series: The Revenge of Captain Paine.  A few years have passed and former Bow Street runner Pyke has settled into his new role of banker.  A headless body is found and his assistance is requested.  That investigation leads him into the newly developing railway, the fight for workers’ rights, and to the British monarchy.

Pepper did a good job of pacing the book, though the last third had Pyke doing less and just explaining the central mysteries, and the revelation of the true evil-doers came a bit early for me.  In fact – spoiler alert – there weren’t enough characters introduced that didn’t have some role in the crimes Pyke is investigating and that would be my main problem with the narrative.

There were some twists, and I do find Pyke a really intriguing creation.  As in the first book, he is very found of taking matters into his own hands, and while it makes for a thrilling narrative, I am starting to wonder how long he can continue down this path.




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